The Daily Switch

Health-Care as Marriage

Posted by maker on November 9, 2009

Health-care is to marriage as...

Can either marriage or health-care reasonably be labeled a right?

I’ve recently been involved in a few debates over at a liberal blog called meoutsidethebox . The irony of the name is made clear by hopelessly captive thinking which permeates each leftist-talking-point-turned-article on the site. Regardless of the slant, the editor doesn’t shrink from a good debate, no matter how much he may avoid answering a direct question.

The latest article on the site poses the question ‘Is health insurance a right?’ . The obvious answer is, ‘no’ with the reason being, ‘because it’s not.’ But for people who might need a little more hand holding let’s explore it a bit further.

First, let’s clarify that there is a difference between health care and health insurance, the latter simply being one of many means of providing the former. I think that the title of the article is a bit misleading because what is subsequently discussed is care, not insurance. So let’s focus on the care.

 In the resulting arguments surrounding this issue, a constant analogy seems to be that the Constitution does not directly grant the right to marriage, but that over time we have confirmed marriage to be a right and recognize it as such. Thus, we should follow the same track for health care. Despite the analogy’s gaping holes I am fine with it. Let’s agree that healthcare should be treated as a right just as marriage is.
Is anyone proposing that the government should pay the financial, not to mention the emotional, costs of marriage? Should the government pay for the wedding? Or even the engagement ring? Should the government be tasked with finding someone willing to marry you, despite any baggage you might have? And if unwilling should the government impose regulations forcing a spouse to accept a marriage despite any and all baggage? Should this right be forced on everyone so that the singles of our society must pay a penalty for not acquiring the right of marriage? Should any man be made to marry Nancy Pelosi?

‘That’s ridiculous’ you might say, to which I’ll respond, ‘we are finally beginning to agree’. Let’s call it a right if that makes for a more amiable starting point. Now that we agree on the labels we still have the solution to flesh out.

Good news for America's divorce rate, bad news for growing old together.

Government run health-care means 'til death do us part may not seem so long.

Calling health-care a right does not mean we suspend our knowledge of history or our tendency toward logic. The idea that determining health-care a right automatically translates to support for this ruinous and ignorant proposal is embarrassingly short-sighted. As some people are painstakingly thorough to claim, ‘we are all in this together’, so let’s figure out what works so we don’t screw things up for everyone. Does history tell us anything about socialized medicine? Do economics tell us anything about incentives, or competition? Where quality is paramount, can we afford to eliminate these considerations?

Perhaps, as with marriage, government should more appropriately leave well enough alone so as to allow the American people to pursue their rights, and the ensuing costs, as they see fit.


18 Responses to “Health-Care as Marriage”

  1. Dan said

    Hi Ian,

    [clicked on your link and can’t help but respond] I agree that the analogy isn’t a very a good one (in fact its really bad), but your rant of ridiculous questions to prove your point actually have no relevance either. A marriage license is probably $25. A wedding ceremony and a ring are as much a part of the right to marriage as having a celebratory cake party after your surgery is part of the right to healthcare. Also, single people can’t cost people additional money because they aren’t married the way the uninsured can by not having insurance. Why anybody would compare marriage and health care to prove any point is beyond me. Again, what you say sounds good, but really doesn’t mean anything.

    Just a disclaimer, I don’t want an argument. I’m not an expert on the subject (I doubt any of you are either, the first step is admitting it), I’m just trying to learn and I learn the most by seeing what the opposition thinks (I know what I think). Sorry Ian but every time I read something of yours, I never learn anything. I only learn that you make big assumptions without much substance.

  2. Stephen R said

    The title of that linked post asks a question: “Is health insurance a right or a privilege?”

    None of the above. It’s a **product**.

  3. Stephen R said

    Dan said: “[S]ingle people can’t cost people additional money because they aren’t married the way the uninsured can by not having insurance.”

    Sure they do. Children born outside of marriage have a huge cost on society. Start with *much* higher incidences of crime and drug use and go from there.

    On the flip side of that coin, uninsured people only cost others money because of government regulations already in place that insist that they must receive health care regardless of their ability to pay. Remove those laws and the only cost to others is the digging of paupers’ graves.

    Yes, that’s the Cold Bastard version of course; but it still demonstrates the rather large assumption that you’re avoiding.

  4. Dan said

    I see you have followed the links.

    I wasn’t avoiding it, I am well aware of that fact. If you truly believe that people that can’t afford health insurance or care should just die, then I think you are a horrible person. Did you say that just to prove a point or to you truly think that is the way we should do things.

  5. maker said


    Thanks for sticking around despite the ‘fact’ that you’ve never learned anything from anything I’ve written. I still have hope, as do you apparently. All in good time…

  6. maker said


    Thanks for your input. It is an important distinction, but one that seems to prove ideoloogically abhorent to those on the left. What I was trying to do was move into the punch so to speak. Let’s accept it as a ‘right’ if it will then qualify us to look for a realistic solution and move us all past this unproductive part of the argument. If we start from the same point the government’s involvement in healthcare still sucks. So let’s figure out a better way.

    P.S. Checked out your site a bit. Interesting stuff…

  7. maker said


    He clearly qualified the point he was making, and it was a good one. The myth that government run healthcare is the best way or even a possible way to reduce costs is a dangerous lie that needs to be confronted. If costs are the issue the best route is to develop a burial fund and be done with it. Obviously, no one is suggesting this, but it is important to realize the implications.

  8. Dan said

    I’ll stick around. I think I was quick to act when I said I don’t learn anything from you. I think the point is that you are so far right, I have trouble relating. People that are closer to moderate follow a similar logic, which makes sense to me, whether I ultimately agree or not.

    Also when you respond to my questions, I rarely get an answer I want from you. Whether you are doing it intentionally or not or its because of me poorly wording my questions, I don’t know.

    Anyway I pose this question to you, Stephen or anybody. Correct me where I am wrong. You say the government doesn’t have authority to do this because they can’t force you to pay for other people. Stephen has gone as far to say that the government can’t force us to pay for emergencies in situations where people can’t pay. How come all taxes don’t fall into this category of not being allowed because in all situations, somebody paying that tax isn’t directly benefiting from it, like you and healthcare?

  9. maker said


    It can be argued that all income tax is unconstitutional, and I would agree with this argument. I think you are missing the thrust of what we are saying though. My opposition to government spending in general is always linked to the fact that we as taxpayers have virtually no say in what our money is spent on. Roadways and other infrastructure maintenance can easily be described as promoting the general welfare. Healthcare is much more specifically geared towards helping a select few to the detriment of the many. Nothing general about it. I have no problem with being taxed to support infrastructure, our armed forces and that’s pretty much it. I start having problems when the congress starts ignoring their enumerated powers and going ‘above and beyond’.

    Tell me what you think of the article…

  10. Dan said

    Thanks for the response. I can see how you could consider roadways and infrastructure as more general. How would you argue that this bill is a detriment to many while only geared towards helping a few? I thought the goal was to help all and also what kind of detriment are you talking about? Are you referring to just the public option or all reform in general? That might clear things up for me.

    Personally I think if the government only provides a place to drive your car and an army to protect us, we our society would be much worse. What would we do without education, fire departments, public libraries, parks (that might be something you support if I’m getting you) police force and I’m sure many others? If the government isn’t allowed to do any of this, then I think that should be changed.

    I read the article. Again, I think that if the government can’t do the things that it is doing (why are they doing them and why have they been doing them since essentially the beginning of our country) and it should be changed so that they can do them. I think that if 85% of elected officials and probably a relatively close number of the general public have no problem with what is currently going on (meaning tax for things like education and standard safety regulations), maybe that’s a sign that its time to move on. I think the fear of this being a slippery slope is irrational. I don’t know where you expect this to go, but there is nothing I see that deserves any fear. What are you afraid of happening?

    Also, tyrannical czars . . . really? Who ever describes an advisor to somebody as tyrannical? Irrational fears.


  11. maker said


    Thanks again for taking the time to engage on the issues. I think for many the goal is to help all. Unfortunately the method proposed makes that impossible. It is not mathematically possible to provide the same or better care for more people at lower costs. It just can’t happen. The non-negotiable seems to be the more people part so costs need to go way up or quality of care needs to go way down, to the detriment of all but a small few. I am referring to the government run health-care bill. I am talking about increased regulation and involvement in both health insurance and health-care.

    Why would you assume that people would not have education (where there are currently much more efficiently run and succesful private options), fire departments (many of which are private), libraries (many of which are private), and parks if not for the government? I am fine with state and local police forces being paid for by tax dollars.

    You should read two books that will certainly shed a lot of light on the questions you are asking. Men in Black by Mark Levin and Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. If you are interested in answering these questions or simply interested in understanding people who disagree with you better these are must reads. I am afraid of things heading, as they always do, towards losses of liberty and ultimately tyranny. This is historically and logically sound thinking, not at all irrational.

    I think that the people who have been affected by the ‘pay czar’ would definitely view him as tyrannical and worth fearing.

  12. Dan said

    I don’t think anybody proposed that it was going to cost less. I think they have found ways to cut wastes and then taxing the very rich a little. Of course you don’t agree with these steps, but I think care will stay the same.

    When I said all that stuff about education and so on, I meant for everybody, not just those that can pay for it. Of course they would still exist. The private schools around me are crap and are like $15,000 a year. Who can afford that? And if you house catches on fire you have to pay up front to put it out? Is that seriously how you want things done?

    I think tyranny is a tad extreme. I doubt I’m gonna be enslaved somewhere and be like “damn, I wish I didn’t think poor people should have health care”. Sorry, no time to read. My professors give me enough to do. Plus I don’t need to read Men in Black, I already saw the movie.

  13. Steve said

    The health care proposal will add to the deficit with the hope that in the future we will reduce costs. I am not confident in that since government spending never errs on our side. It is too big of a gamble. It is important to note that the people that disagree with the current bill are not against reform. By no means! Just the direction it is being led. There are many proposals out there that would reduce costs without an upfront ‘investment’ of our tax dollars. Being left out of the bill is true tort reform and elimination of restrictions on interstate competition by insurance companies. We can thank lobbyist for those aspect never seeing the light of day.
    Remember that every dollar ‘invested’ into our government via taxes is watered down in waste many times over before is actually used for a program that ‘helps’ people. Imagine if you used your money to support directly what you felt was a worth while cause (social programs for the poor etc) and you had more money to do so because you were not paying it into taxes. Your personal money would go much further to actually help people than tax dollars into a program you have zero say in. Using your own money to directly fund programs you believe are effective is one of the conservative mindsets.

    And a 5.5% tax on 1 million dollars is $55,000 dollars. That is not a tiny tax. Considering that most people that make $1 mil or more are business owners that translated into at least 1 job probably 2 jobs and that directly effects those with lower incomes.

  14. Ian,

    I agree with some of the things you and Stephen have mentioned here, but it is unequivocally untrue that removing government regulations will merely leave us with the costs of burial. Disease and poor health are, in the words of Oliver O’Donovan, ‘depoliticizing forces’ that can be as strong as tyrants and invaders. These things can, “prevent people from living in communities, from coordinating their efforts to the common good; from protecting one another against injury and maintaining just order; and from handing on their cultural legacy to their children” (Desire of Nations). Anyone, who has experienced the sickness of a loved one knows the vast effects of this on communities. It is naive to say that children born outside of marriage have an effect on society, while untreated illness does not. History bears out the silliness of this much more clearly than the losses of liberty you predict will happen through health-care reform (cf. just one, the black plague’s effect on Europe).

  15. Stephen R said

    “It can be argued that all income tax is unconstitutional….”

    Quick note: It WAS unconstitutional, until we amended the Constitution to allow it. Probably the most destructuve amendment in the hostory of the Constitution, but still….

  16. Stephen R said

    Coming back to this two weeks later….

    “You say the government doesn’t have authority to do this because they can’t force you to pay for other people. Stephen has gone as far to say that the government can’t force us to pay for emergencies in situations where people can’t pay. How come all taxes don’t fall into this category of not being allowed because in all situations, somebody paying that tax isn’t directly benefiting from it, like you and healthcare?”

    It’s not a question of whether the particular payee gains directly from it, it’s a question of who has a claim over whatever the taxes pay for.

    There’s a road that runs right past my house. It was paid for by the government (taxpayer money), and I have absolutely no problem with that. Nor do I have a problem with taxpayer money paying for some road on the other side of the country that I will personally never see or use. What is the difference between government taxpayer money paying for that road, and government taxpayer money paying for your healthcare?

    It’s a question of who ends up owning the road. See, even though it runs right past my house, I have no personal claim to that road. I can’t block it off and tell you to keep away. I can’t go out and paint it blue.

    So… who has a claim on your health? What does that have to do with your personal freedom? Think carefully of the implications before you answer.

    Extra Credit: Go do a little reading on a Soviet-era crime called “wrecking“.

  17. Stephen R said

    One more thing: regarding “Stephen has gone as far to say that the government can’t force us to pay for emergencies in situations where people can’t pay.”

    We as a society have chosen to pay for certain necessities for those who are truly unable to pay. That is a far cry from saying that those people have a *right* to it. It’s charity, plain and simple.

    I do however believe that it is immoral for someone to accept charity if they don’t need it, and I believe it’s HUGELY immoral and corrupting to *force* an entire society to accept charity whether they need it or not (e.g. “free” single-payer health care).

  18. Dan said

    I will simply say I don’t agree with you. I’m not afraid of the government, I’m not afraid of losing all these freedoms and I’m nearly %100 positive 10, 20 even 50 years from now I will still feel just as free as I do now if our country has a public option. Even your links to Soviet Russia aren’t going to make me scared of the government, sorry.

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