Leave the dialogues to Plato

Theodore Dalrymple can usually come up with irritatingly unanswerable points like a Pez dispenser dispensing Pez. But he has me utterly lost here:

When the supposed right to health care is widely recognized, as in the United Kingdom, it tends to reduce moral imagination. Whenever I deny the existence of a right to health care to a Briton who asserts it, he replies, “So you think it is all right for people to be left to die in the street?”

When I then ask my interlocutor whether he can think of any reason why people should not be left to die in the street, other than that they have a right to health care, he is generally reduced to silence. He cannot think of one.

(Via WSJ.com.) I can only think that a double negative has been removed from the sentence. I can think of plenty of reasons why people shouldn’t be left to die on the street that have nothing to do with a right to health care. “When I ask my interlocutor whether he can think of any reason why people should be left to die in the street, in the absence of a right to health care…” perhaps? Or possibly, these interlocutors are reduced to silence because Dalrymple is cruelly stuffing socks into their mouths.

Separately, Dalrymple makes the dangerous statement that no one ever came up with a right to health care before, inferentially, the 20th century. Why not. he asks? Before we get to the whys, let’s focus on the ifs. The levellers called for something very much like universal medicine in the 1640s, as well as for other wild ideas such as giving votes to people who couldn’t afford them. And they can’t be the only ones.

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