Monday, May 15, 2017

_____ Makes Right?

Asked during Sunday's pageant in Las Vegas whether healthcare was a privilege or a right, Miss McCullough said: "I'm definitely going to say it's a privilege."

She added: "As a government employee, I'm granted healthcare and I see first hand that for one to have healthcare, you need to have jobs.

"We need to continue to cultivate this environment that we're given the opportunity to have healthcare as well as jobs to all American citizens worldwide."
Miss USA Kara McCullough criticised for saying healthcare a 'privilege'
Welcome to a divide between different interpretations of how the world around us works. "The new Miss USA beauty pageant winner has sparked controversy by declaring that healthcare was a 'privilege', not a right," for the simple reason that when most of people ask the question, they have a particular way of viewing the world in mind.

Let's consider the case of Jack. Jack doesn't have access to anything other than charity care for some reason or the other. And there are many people, millions of them in fact, in Jack's position in the United States alone. Now, you can look at this in one of a few different ways, but let's start with two of them: You can say that Jack has a right to health care, and that right is being violated. Or, you could say that Jack clearly doesn't have a right to health care, considering the number of people in the same boat as he is. And this isn't necessarily an ideological or political difference. Rather it's a matter of how one understands something to become a "right."

For many people in the United States, rights are a simple matter of realizing them to exist. They were always there, regardless of any other considerations, but a person may or may not recognize them. We can call this a Natural Law approach. A vegan might say that animals have the right to lives that are not ended prematurely in order for them to be butchered for human consumption. And as far as they are concerned that right has always existed - it is, after a fashion, a fact of nature. People may not have had the resources, or been enlightened enough to respect that right, but the right was there, and animals killed to be food had their rights violated, as Natural Law endowed them with those rights. But if you look at rights as deriving from the existence of actions taken to protect that right, you can have a different perspective. It's perfectly normal to raise animals (generally speaking) for no other reason than to kill them for food. We may not always like the way people go about that, but it's a common practice and the people who seek to do something about it are few and far enough between that they aren't making much headway. We can call this a Human Action approach. And from this perspective, you would be hard pressed to understand that animals have a right not to be eaten by humans. (Note that there are more viewpoints than this - one could say that rights are created by declaration, whether or not they are backed up by actions, for instance.)

And because these two understandings of rights are mutually exclusive, the fact that they use the same language becomes grist for confusion. Or bitterness, as the case may be. People have a tendency to hear words as if they themselves, rather than the actual speaker, had spoken them. And so when Miss McCullough stated that she considered healthcare a privilege, people didn't bother to consider the context in which she'd made that statement, which to me is rooted in the idea that rights are defined by actions and the facts on the ground. But, as one might suspect, we don't have a right to be understood.

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