Testimony: No Right to Another’s Labor


Testimony in Opposition to LD 590: “Resolution, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Establish a Right to Health Care”

Good Morning Senator Bailey, Representative Perry, and the distinguished members of the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance, and Financial Services, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 590.

I have no doubt that this bill comes from a compassionate place. If we wish the best for people, shouldn’t we declare their “right” to all the things that make life comfortable and enjoyable? 

Unfortunately, while powered by good intentions, feelings do not make good public policy or economic sense. Declaring a right to health care is hollow and fragile. It is akin to claiming a right to someone else’s work. In practice, it is intellectually lazy and cruel.

In order to get to the bottom of this question, we must agree on a definition of rights. Are rights conditional or are they eternal? 

Rights exist independently of our financial or social status. We can all share them equally at the same time, no matter the condition of the world. If something requires a government, company, or other person to fulfill, it cannot be a right.

If we each own our bodies and our minds, we have a right to our lives. If we have a right to life, we have a right to how we choose to apply our time—our minds—in the world; this is liberty. If you own your mind, body, and how you choose to apply them to the world, then you own the fruits of that labor: your property.

Every human retains these rights at all times. Each ends where another individual’s right to life, liberty, or property begins.

So, how can two people have the same right to health care if one has it but the other doesn’t? The simple fact that some of us are homeless or starving today means that no human right to housing or to food exists. These are merely desires, problems not solved without work and focus.

If I have a right to housing, do I have the right to a free home built by my neighbor, the busy general contractor? If I have a right to healthcare, do I have a right to my doctor’s time and expertise, whatever amount it may take to diagnose and treat my ailment?

Goods and services cannot be rights, because one cannot have a right to another person’s labor or property. If we own the fruits of our labor, then it is never right to take from another without their consent.

Of course not. Our neighbors are not our slaves. We cannot demand they work for us for free; the assertion is simply immoral. They deserve to be justly compensated for the massive amount of time and focus required to thrive in their professions. Just because a service is highly valuable does not give anyone a “right” to it.

Please deem LD 590 “Ought Not To Pass” and reject this misguided interpretation of rights. Rights are inherent, individual, and eternal; they are not subject to conditions of the moment. Thank you for your time and consideration.