John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, declares in a recent Wall Street Journal Op Ed that health care is not a right. He bases this assertion on a “careful reading” of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Mr. Mackey might find it instructive to explore the logic of his position. His contention is that unless a right is expressly stated in the Declaration or the Constitution, it does not exist. This is not a tenable position. For example, neither the Declaration nor the Constitution expressly declares a “right to breathe,” yet no one (Mr. Mackey included) would doubt the existence of that right. Mr. Mackey would presumably agree that because the Declaration declares the right to life, and because breath is essential to life, the right to breathe follows as a necessary inclusion. Unless Mr. Mackey is prepared to dispute that medical treatment is often necessary to life, he would have to make the same admission regarding health care.
Interestingly, Mr. Mackey’s position undercuts any basis for the protection of the enterprise he heads. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution recognizes the right of a corporation to exist, own property, or operate—-in fact, they make no mention of corporations whatsoever. According to Mr. Mackey, then, the state—or anyone else—-should be free to abolish Whole Foods, or at a minimum take whatever they wanted from any Whole Foods store without paying. One suspects Mr. Mackey would disagree, but he would find little help in the text of the Declaration and the Constitution.
The fact is that rights emerge from social consensus, legislation, litigation, and host of other sources outside our founding documents. We have the rights we fight for and insist upon. Mr. Mackey would deny me and mine a right I believe essential. While it would tempting to fight back by holding Mr. Mackey to his “strict originalist” views, there is a more effective way: Boycott Whole Foods.
David R. Eason