Often when people approach the end of life, they begin to contemplate their lives and recognize that of all the things they have accumulated, all the accolades that have been bestowed upon them, nothing is as valuable as life itself. There is nothing that should be protected more than life itself. But if it's the most valuable thing we possess, whose responsibility is it to protect it? Is it the responsibility of the individual that possesses it? Is it the responsibility of the society in which that individual is a constituent? The answer most likely lies somewhere between those choices.
The individual and society each has something to gain by having healthy components. Neither of them benefits by simply expecting the other to take on the whole responsibility. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that individuals should take at least some responsibility for their own health and society should serve as a safety net.
But it seems that our politicians have not struck that balance between safety net and individual responsibility. Given the already disastrous budget, we plow full speed ahead toward the fiscal cliff and a mandatory health care plan that will worsen a doctor shortage. The quality of our health care system as we know it will decline, and most hurt of all will be — surprise, surprise — the poor.
We have a moral duty to take care of our fellow man regardless of the cost. The Founding Fathers stated that we have rights to life, liberty and property, and advocated a government that protects those rights. If we interpreted our Constitution correctly, America was built on the principle that government exists to protect our rights that already exist, not dictate what rights we have, do not have or should have.
In fact, no government can give us new rights. I heard many liberals saying, in the run-up to Election Day, that our "four freedoms" were at stake. This is, of course, wrong. We never had them, and we never will. No government can guarantee wealth or a certain standard of living because the government doesn't produce anything. It can only take what already has been produced and redistribute it. Witness so many Third World countries where there is simply nothing left to redistribute. You can have the most confiscatory state in history and still never be able to guarantee anything. Any politician who promises you that he can do something like this is lying to you.
Let's pretend the government does give you a new right, a right to health care. What will that mean in practice? That means that they will have to force someone to act against their will to provide for your care. The government cannot make doctors appear out of thin air — in fact, Obamacare appears to be causing just the opposite effect — and it cannot make things cost less than they do. Price controls do not work: My saying that a Rolls-Royce costs $5 doesn't make it so. The laws of supply and demand don't need to play well in the swing states; they will rule whether we like it or not.
In other words, for every right you add, you take away a right. Obamacare shows us this: Adding a right to health care already has taken away the most basic First Amendment right of Catholics to exercise their religion. A right to abortion handed down by a court takes away the citizens' right to vote their conscience. Any new or unnecessary right always takes away a necessary one. I wish it were not so. I wish that we could make everything good into a right, but we just can't.
Health care cannot be a privilege either, if we look at the true definition of privilege. Privilege is a special favor granted by another entity, whether it is government, the private sector or within a household. It is also not something that we obtain only from the government. Health care is a service that is provided through both public and private means. If we want to live out the liberties granted to us by our founders, we should reserve our right to purchase health care in the free market, allowing opportunities for those to purchase at affordable rates, not by allowing health care controlled by bureaucrats.
Of course, there is, and can never be, a right to health care. But there is, and will always be, the duty for us to take care of our brothers and sisters.
• Armstrong Williams, author of the new book "Reawakening Virtues," is on Sirius Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.