Basic Human Rights

We’ve all heard some politicians say something akin to ” Health care is a basic human right. We are for basic human rights, and that’s Medicare-for-all. Everyone gets covered and the government should provide it free of charge.”

Should all “basic human rights” be provided for free by the government? A lot of these (read below) sure sound like they’re basic human rights and good things for everyone to have access to.

Access to housing is a basic human right. We fight for basic human rights and that’s housing for all. Everyone has a place to sleep (single people live in bunk houses, married people get a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1000 square foot apartment).

Clothing is a basic human right.  We fight for basic human rights and that’s clothing-for-all.  Everyone gets covered (Gray cotton pants, shirts and socks and flip flops).

Transportation is a basic human right.  We fight for basic human rights and that’s transportation for all.  Everyone gets a ride (on a bus at a bus stop 5 miles from where you live and it stops twice a day).

Food and nutrition is a basic human right. We fight for basic human rights and that’s food for all.  Everyone gets fed (what we think is best for them -daily menu: ham biscuit for breakfast, black beans for lunch, fried chicken and rice for dinner, orange jello for dessert).

Working and living in good buildings is a basic human right. Architect services should be covered. (why not have all buildings look the same, that would be cheaper.)

Monetary income is a basic human right.  We fight for basic human rights and that’s a guaranteed income for all.  Everyone gets paid ($12,000/year, with everything necessary paid by the government, this will be plenty, they’ll tell us.) Buying a Winnebago to travel the country in retirement or just traveling for fun will be too expensive plus the government thinks traveling needs to be reduced to protect the crumbling infrastructure.

All sound good, but when everything is provided, there’s no incentive to improve, to work hard, to discover new things. If clothing were provided by the government, we’d all be wearing the same thing, just like in Communist China and Russia for years in the 1950’s – 1970’s until they opened up to some capitalism. When you get something for free, it has little value to you. When you work hard for something, it is valuable to you.

Same with healthcare, if the government pays for everything, the quality of the care and the quick access to it declines. Budgets will play a big role in our care. For example, only 110,000 hip placements can be paid for in a year. Unfortunately, in July your hip is causing you excruciating pain, but you’re number 110,001 and it’s August, so you have to wait 5 months. Without the opportunity to have their efforts rewarded; inventors, doctors and pharma companies lose a powerful incentive to discover new and better drugs and procedures. Of course we would like to think they’ll still do this for the good of humanity and the prestige they get, but money and wealth is a very powerful incentive. Is this a trade-off Americans want to make?

None of us are “right”

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As we embark upon another Presidential election in this highly polarized political environment, we should be mindful of these passages from the book “Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz:

“Think about the accusation that people who disagree with us “don’t live in the real world.”  What we really mean is that they don’t live in our model of the world; they don’t share our vision of how things are.  By failing to see the world as we do, they actually are undermining its reality and threatening its destruction – at least, unto us.  But, of course, we are doing the same to them. Implicitly or explicitly, we are denying that they possess the same intellectual and moral faculties that we do – and denying, too, the significance and value of their life experiences, from which, inevitably, many of their beliefs arise.

We assume that other people are ignorant because we assume that we are not; we think we know the facts and we think those facts determine our beliefs.  Put differently, we think the evidence is on our side.”

So as we debate issues in this forum, let’s remember that someone with a view different from ours isn’t necessarily ignorant.