The state is not a legal guardian of people, an entity that assigns rights and dignity. Quite the opposite: The state is a construct that we use (often not very effectively) to protect rights and dignity that we already have. The biggest concern we should have with the state is that it has a strong tendency to violate its position, and history is a powerful reminder of this tendency. The state in fact, has no dignity; only people do.
As such, the family is the most important societal mechanism for protecting and defending the rights and dignity which come from our Creator. Where the family or community cannot do this, we employ the state, bounded by the rule of law and respect for individual rights, to protect those rights.
When the state crosses that boundary and assumes the role of parent, we can only expect that the natural role of families, churches, and communities will be eclipsed, and this will erode our natural rights and dignity. Parents must be the ones to make the choices about the care of their children. This is why Charlie’s legal battle matters so much.
Put yourself in the position of his parents: If he was your child, you would want the opportunity both legally and financially to do everything you could for that child. You would want to choose what care your child receives and where. You would want to exhaust every possible life-saving measure, even if the odds were not favorable. The legal structure is depriving Charlie’s mother and father of that right and assuming a paternalistic role over the quality and length of his life.
When the state protects the pre-ordained rights of individual people, we all have the chance to thrive. It is only in this environment that people are free to flourish, in part by finding ways to solve the real problems that plague us. And this brings us to the second part of the story.
Only when markets are freed and people can innovate do we get life-saving technologies. Charlie and those who come after him need doctors who have the incentives to try and fight this disease. For that, we need a system that frees scientists and doctors to innovate and harnesses their human creativity for the Charlies of the world. It is this very process that has made it unlikely that you or I will die from the flu, measles, smallpox, or tuberculosis. Fatality rates for those diseases have plummeted over the past 300 years precisely because we have had the freedom to innovate.
However, the trend among wealthy countries is to overly burden the health care field with regulations that make disease prevention and cure exorbitantly expensive. The UK system is one of “universal healthcare.” Universal healthcare means that everyone is enrolled and coverage is largely “free” – free meaning there is no monetary price paid by the customers at the point of service, yet the real price people pay is quite high.
Doctors and other health care providers under this system cannot offer their services through a price system. Prices are needed, because they help us ration scarce resources and prices work in conjunction with profits and losses, providing the necessary incentives for human ingenuity and innovation.