Social Issues / A Right To Honour Our Instincts
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Autor: anton 21 April 2011
Words: 1755 | Pages: 8
A Right to Honour Our Instincts:
Examining the responsibility of a society
to the well-being of its people through
national healthcare systems
A constant issue facing economically well off cultures, such as present day Canada, is that of wealth distribution: of who is entitled to the benefits stemming from the resources and capital which the society holds, to what extent they are entitled and of what type of institutions should the society offer to protect these rights of entitlement. In this paper I will argue that in such societies each citizen should be legally entitled to full access of a national, single tier healthcare system, and will prove such by dissecting opposing theories to show that at the root to all schools of morality is the unconditional value for human life; a value which I will then prove can only be truly endorsed through such non-exclusive welfare systems.
Libertarian theory, perhaps the biggest opponent of all mandatory citizen funded programs, is based on the foundation that there are three cardinal rights that every individual is entitled to: the right to Life, the right to Liberty and the right to Property. When dealing with contemporary issues such as healthcare (or the broader concept of welfare in general) Libertarian arguments tend to stem almost entirely from that of the third right regarding property and entitlements of ownership. However, it is my belief that it is within those two proposed rights which seem to be temporarily dismissed, the rights to life and liberty, that there simultaneously lies a hole in the libertarian argument and a key point in the argument for mandatory healthcare (and welfare in general). According to Libertarian accounts, an individual, or agentÐ²Ð‚â„¢s, Ð²Ð‚Ñšright to LifeÐ²Ð‚Ñœ entitles them to be free from injury or death caused by the actions of another agent. In this sense, if agent Ð²Ð‚?AÐ²Ð‚â„¢ attempts to injure or take the life of agent Ð²Ð‚?BÐ²Ð‚â„¢, then A is violating BÐ²Ð‚â„¢s basic right to Life and is such morally wrong and punishable by law. Though seemingly elementary in its reasoning, it is my argument that this right to Life is, in actuality, much more extensive than libertarian argument may imply. It can be seen that a dramatically different dynamic is created when one takes into account not only those direct actions which agent A may have taken to cause agent BÐ²Ð‚â„¢s harm, but also those actions which A directly Ð²Ð‚â€œdid not- take in order to prevent the harm caused to B. In this sense, responsibility regarding the security of an agentsÐ²Ð‚â„¢ right to life becomes much more all encompassing and significantly harder for any separate agent to avoid. In GoviersÐ²Ð‚â„¢ account of social welfare she works with this same concept of wide spread societal responsibility, but goes even further to suggest that in societies where in there are sufficient reasources to meet the basic needs of all of its citizens, the society is responsible to make sure that each citizen is meeting the basic needs to sustain their life. If the society fails to provide a basic level of security for the well being of its citizens, it is in essence Ð²Ð‚Ñšimposing upon the needy either death or a life of depravityÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Govier p.378).
On a like note, the notion of Ð²Ð‚ÑšLibertyÐ²Ð‚Ñœ which is seen by libertarian theory as an intrinsic right held by all individuals, can be described as an agentÐ²Ð‚â„¢s right to conduct their life however they would like in accordance with those options open to them. This, of course, is usually thought to go hand in hand with property rights, describing a call for a certain amount of freedom for an agent to openly and without regulation use and dispose of their own fairly acquired property. However, if we once again broaden our understanding of this right to Liberty beyond that strictly of property rights it may be understood to advocate not only an agents right to physically sustain their life, but also their right to the opportunity to be able to utilize their physical well being to create some sort of dignified existence for themselves. If Liberty is understood in this way, then it can be concluded that in order for a society to adequately provide its citizens security in this Ð²Ð‚?intrinsicÐ²Ð‚â„¢ rights it must not only be able to provide its citizens with the bare minimum needed for survival, but also with some cushion of security (financial, or in this case, medical) that would allow for a more dignified pursuit of life; something more than the pursuit of simply attempting to stay alive. In this sense, in order to equally provide all citizens with health services that would allow them to maintain a functional standard of health and wellness, emphasis must be placed on a system of Medicare which is sufficiently financially and administratively prepared to provide such services to all citizens, thoroughly and non-exclusively.
Now, a loyal Libertarian may appeal this argument by suggesting that even if this were correct; even if it was regarded by members of society as despicable for and agent to indirectly inhibit another agents right to life or liberty through their own inaction, they would likely be quick to state that and issue of bad character alone does not give anyone, state included, the right to force an agent to give up their justly acquired property. They may hold that while it is crucial that all three rights be equally protected, the need to remedy potential infringements on the rights of life and liberty for the disadvantaged and needy does not, in any way, provide grounds for the justly acquired property of any agent to be forcefully taken away to do so. Once again, it is in the narrow conceptualization of a term, in this case the specific usage of the term Ð²Ð‚ÑšagentÐ²Ð‚Ñœ, in which re-interpretation of the Libertarian theory can show dramatic results. Whereas in libertarian terms property refers to anything of value that may be utilized, traded, lent, destroyed etc. and ownership is granted if the property was a) created via labour or b) acquired through just transfer with another owner , then it could be concluded that any agent that plays a role in the creation of an object has at least partial ownership of it. For instance if person X and person Y each sew one leg of a pair of pants and then work equally to join the two creating one garment, it is said by Libertarian theory that X and Y have 50/50 ownership of the pants. Simple enough, however it becomes crucial for a definition of Ð²Ð‚ÑšagentÐ²Ð‚Ñœ to be presented, as any altering to such seems to produce noticeably different implications and consequences. Libertarian theory suggests the word Ð²Ð‚ÑšagentÐ²Ð‚Ñœ refers specifically to an individual human being, but I would argue that if we once again expand this bit of Libertarian vocabulary we may come to include society itself as an agent; as an entity that creates, utilizes and exchanges objects. Furthermore, if society is considered an agent itself, then one has to recognize the impact its actions have in shaping those objects we as individual agents each create and, furthermore, the implications of ownership that sub sequentially fall into the mix. It becomes almost impossible to think of an agent and any object that they may or may not create as existing completely outside the influence of the ideas and institutions of the society that they exist within. An individualÐ²Ð‚â„¢s education, practical knowledge, political and economic practices as well as beliefs and values are all products of the socialization process they have undergone so far in life, and thus, any of those which may have in any way contributed to the creation of the objects they make grants at least partial ownership to the agent of society. If society then holds as partial owner of almost anything created within it, it is only just, in Libertarian logic, that the power stemming from that ownership be freely and proportionally exercised in whatever way the society deems without regulation. In other words, the pre-supposed social practices and co-operations that allow us the basis for our Life, Liberty and Property also leave us constantly in debt to society, and unable to avoid that debt without contradicting the rights we wish to protect for ourselves.
From all of this the conclusion which can be drawn seems to go logically as followed: If an individual has a) the right to be able to sustain their physical life, b) the right for the opportunity to some type of meaningful existence beyond pure survival and c) owes at least some fraction of all they create to the society in which they live, then it would seem completely logical for them to be made to pay a small fraction of their overall income to programs and institutions utilized by society to maintain the functional welfare of its citizens; more specifically, a national healthcare system which would provide all members of society with care sufficient for them to both survive and thrive. Now, since we find ourselves existing in a capitalist economy in Canada, it has to be recognized that the opportunity for people to privately offer medical services above and beyond the mandatory level is real and likely to bring a private second tier into the mix. While it wouldnÐ²Ð‚â„¢t be just for the government to attempt to prevent such action in a capitalist setting, it would be their duty to keep their funding and energy focused away from that private sector and into regulating the single tiered national system. Likewise, whether or not an agent chose to partake in the private fields of medical care, they must still always continue to contribute to the national level (based on the notion of societyÐ²Ð‚â„¢s partial ownership). Through this system we could finally see honoured the instinctual value we as a society seem to hold regarding the unyielding significance of the flourishing of life.
For the purpose of this paper, the word Ð²Ð‚ÑšsocietyÐ²Ð‚Ñœ will be used to mean all forces involved in running, organizing and driving a country, including not only the government but also the citizens who elect and reside under the government.
Referring to the concept of the importance of a Ð²Ð‚ÑšdignifiedÐ²Ð‚Ñœ right, as expressed in the lecture material of February 8th, 2008, in which importance is stressed on the ability of a right to provide an individual with some type of meaningful existence.
As discussed in Lecture on February 6th, 2008.
Govier, p.382 of course pack.
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