It's Not the Government's Job to Protect My Health

By ROGER STARK  | 
Jun 28, 2021
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I don’t know who wrote or said the quote, but yesterday this paragraph appeared on a social media platform:

“It’s not the government’s job to protect my health. It’s the government’s job to protect my rights. It’s my job to protect my health. When you trade liberty for safety, you end up losing both.”

Whether you believe health care is a “right,” we can all agree that health care is a necessity of life – just like food, shelter, and clothing are necessities of a long, productive life. Except in safety-net situations, the government does not provide food, shelter, and clothing for the vast majority of Americans.

The role of the government is to guarantee a free-market framework so people can access the necessities of life in a timely fashion. Just like in all other economic activities, the free-market offers the best solution to provide the greatest access to health care and to control costs. If “food care” was controlled, paid for, and regulated by the government, we would have overutilization, fewer choices, and a limited supply. The private system of grocery stores and supermarkets guarantees access, choice, and competitive prices for everyone. The free-market system is efficient, voluntary, and fair.

Health care is personal. Personal responsibility is almost invariably overlooked during health care policy reform debates. Each individual should make their own decisions about lifestyle activities. Likewise, it is not the responsibility of the government to protect people from those decisions. For example, people should be prepared to accept the consequences of smoking, over-eating, and engaging in high-risk endeavors.

Individuals freely making their own health care decisions and using their own health care dollars would give Americans the best chance to utilize their “right” to access health care, with safety-net health programs provided for those who can’t afford it.

At the end of the day, health care is an economic activity like any other, albeit with the most personal of interactions between patient and provider. Society should work toward putting patients in charge of their health care, reducing the role of government, and focusing on access, not health care as a supposed “right.”