Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care–to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Hmph. That fucked up quote comes from an op-ed in the WSJ by the CEO of Whole Foods Inc.

Whole Foods is now trying to pretend this little missive was never penned, and are backpaddling like kayakers upstream from Niagara Falls.

Joe is on it.


  1. #1 David
    August 13, 2009

    He is talking about there being plenty of people in this country that deal with lack of food and shelter(aka homeless or really poor) who would probably rather have some food than a blood test.

  2. #2 gruebait
    August 13, 2009

    From Joe’s site:
    “JMG reader John reports that customers are now “going renegade” and posting their complaints in other areas of the site such as “new product requests.””

    Ya gotta love this series of tubes.

  3. #3 travc
    August 13, 2009

    I’ve met lots of folks from the UK who are quite proud of their “welfare state”. It is a great accomplishment after all.

    Here in the US, “welfare” is a derogatory term… how fucked up is that?

    This particular quote may be out of context, but there are many people (especially “successful” people) who believe in a messed up form of predestination. They are successful, so they are better and deserve to get whatever they want at the expense of whoever.

    Factoid of the day…
    Adam Smith rightly feared that oligarchs and aristocracy would capture and destroy a market based system. Socialism can happily live along side capitalism, aristocracy can’t.

  4. #4 Rick Pikul
    August 13, 2009

    To answer the rhetorical question:

    Article 25.

    * (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  5. #5 Russell
    August 13, 2009

    No one has an intrinsic right to anything. Rights are socially decided. Outside a social consensus, there is nothing but Hobbesian rule of might.

  6. #6 Dan
    August 13, 2009

    @Russell: Our Declaration of Independence states that “that they [people] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now whether or not you agree with the notion of rights derived from a creator, the important point was that it established that people do not serve the government. Rather, the purpose of government is to secure these rights for people. Has that principle almost completely been subsumed as the government becomes more important than the people who formed it.

  7. #7 Joshua Zelinsky
    August 13, 2009

    While phrased this way it may come across badly, there is a serious point that is relevant: We don’t have the resources to give everyone perfect health-care. We need somehow to make decisions in that regard.

    There’s the old related hypothetical which helps make the point is that if we had a billion dollar pill that adds a year to someone’s life we wouldn’t give that pill to everyone.

    No matter what happens we need to make a decision about how much health care everyone gets. While there may be some minimal standard that everyone has a right to, just where to draw that line is not an easy decision.

    John Mackey is being an idiot because he confuses having to draw this line somewhere with saying no such line exists. His position is also of course much easier for him to take than for someone who doesn’t have health care.

  8. #8 Russell
    August 13, 2009

    Dan, with all due respect to Thomas Jefferson, natural rights philosophy is nonsense on stilts. The important issue of government serving the people remains. But the rational framework for thinking about that is more Rawls than Locke.

  9. #9 Robert
    August 13, 2009

    “In the rest of the industrialized world, it is assumed that the more equally and widely the burdens of illness are shared, the better off the population as a whole is likely to be. The reason the United States has forty-five million people without coverage is that its health-care policy is in the hands of people who disagree, and who regard health insurance not as the solution but as the problem.”

    from “The Moral-Hazard Myth” in The New Yorker

  10. #10 MadScientist
    August 13, 2009

    That’s right – if someone is sick and has no money, tough shit, they deserve to die. If someone doesn’t have money they can sleep with the pigeons along Lakeshore Drive. If they don’t have enough money to feed themselves they can get a job or die of starvation. Why should anyone care? Now I wonder if the people promoting that are religious; so far the most ardent supporters of being assholes seem to be religious folk.

  11. #11 Nathan Myers
    August 14, 2009

    Russell is 100% right. If we provide medical care for all, it’s because we choose to do it, not because some idiot God of Rights decreed it. Those societies that do provide care for all are intrinsically better, along that axis, than those that don’t, cultural relativity be damned; if we do it, we’re better, yay for us. Having done it, we can start to look into food and housing, too. Societies that don’t make their people starve or freeze are better than the ones that don’t. North Korea sucks.

    Government is just an organ of society. Sometimes government is the most effective way to make things happen. This has been well demonstrated to be one of those times.

  12. #12 Dunc
    August 14, 2009

    Yes, rights are social constructs. Well done. Welcome to the 20th Century.

    We don’t have the resources to give everyone perfect health-care.

    We don’t have the resources to give anyone perfect anything. Perfection is unattainable.

  13. #13 nails
    August 14, 2009

    I don’t know why rights being socially constructed matters exactly.

    Going off the assumption that suffering is a bad thing is all that is needed to see that healthcare should be available to everyone on some level. Believing that the poor (including children) deserve to die due to circumstance is a monsteous point of view and I am not sure how anyone can support it. Hell half of the reason that there are so many people living on the streets is because there aren’t good resources for the mentally ill- the problem self perpetuates by putting almost anyone with an illness into the poor house automatically.

    I am also puzzled about why there is even a question about this applying to food. Of course it does. People do not deserve to die horrible deaths, from famine or disease, so that the rest of us can buy non essential things for ourselves.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    August 14, 2009

    If you are my facebook friend, you should check out the discussion on this topic going on on my facebook page:

    (feel free to friend me if you like)

    Now, I’m still on my first cup of cofeee, but I’ll get back to you’all on this oon.

  15. #15 SimonG
    August 14, 2009

    I don’t agree with the concept of inherent rights. However, I am happy to live in a country that has decided that letting people suffer and die because they can’t afford health care is a bad idea, just as we’ve decided that letting folk starve to death is something we don’t want in our society.

    Other societies may differ.

    The purely pragmatic fact of reduced overall cost doesn’t hurt either.

  16. #16 Lisa Stone
    August 16, 2009

    I think WF should reduce their prices.

  17. #17 Pearly Penile Papules
    August 20, 2009

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