These rights don't come for free

July 28, 2009, 6:12 am by Ben Stein yourlife

Where should the free benefits for poor Americans stop?

The Internet is an amazing learning tool. Sometimes it is so amazing it simply smacks you right between the eyes, like getting hit with a two-by-four.

A short while ago, I said in a public forum that while I did not doubt that in a society as rich as ours, no one should be denied health care, and that health care was a right, I still had some questions about the administration's plan. This had been my feeling for all of my life, i.e., that health care was a right, and that if necessary, it must be paid for by the taxpayers if some people could not afford it.

Then, a letter showed up in my email from a man with the pen name of a famous Roman writer and thinker. The correspondent asked a few simple questions: Why should everyone be guaranteed free health care? And if we guaranteed to people goods and services they could not afford, where would it ever end? Where would it end short of assuming that everyone has a right to everyone else's property and labor?

This query was like getting struck by lightning. It simply set my mind afire. If a poor person can have the might of the government behind his demand that he get health care, where will the money come from for that? Let's assume that it comes mostly from well-heeled people. Fine. Maybe that's what should happen. I do not want to see people dying in the street because my taxes are kept low.

But do I want to have patients seeing masseuses? Do I want them to be able to see the same psychiatrists that billionaires see? What about a nose job? A plastic surgeon could make up a medical need for a nose job or even a face lift. Where does it end?

And that's just the thin edge of the wedge. If a poor person deserves to have the same good things in life that a rich person has, does the poor person have a "right" to belong to a health club and spa? After all, a spa can make a person feel really good and stay toned. Why shouldn't the taxpayers pay for a poor person to join a health club?

What about air conditioning? I personally consider air conditioning the greatest scientific invention of all time. It makes humans feel immensely happier than when they're hot and sticky. So, shouldn't the taxpayers pay for everyone's home to be air conditioned? And certainly they should pay for everyone's car to have working air conditioning.

How about a college education? A college education makes a big difference in life. Shouldn't poor people be allowed to have the same level of education as rich people? If not, why not? Then what about housing? It makes me feel great to have a lot of space around me in my home. I feel healthier that way. Why should a poor person not have a right to at least 1,000 square feet of living space per person in his home?

If we have as a social rule that poorer Americans are required to have the same good things that rich people have, where is the stopping point? Where do we stop short of confiscatory taxation, taking away property, taking away affluent people's homes and basically abandoning the bedrock of the free society -- private property -- to achieve equality?

I am bound to say I feel queasy even writing this, because I do sincerely feel it is wrong for the poor not to have good medical care. But maybe this is the province of the states or of charity. Maybe it is something that can be worked out without the federal government dictating terms to the affluent. Maybe as important as health care is, individual freedom and private property are indispensable, too. The whole subject is almost terrifying.

Just as one person, I would give a lot to charity to save my family and the future from this kind of redistribution that could mean eliminating freedom and devastating the financial plans of the most productive among us.

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