Okay, enough already. You can go around carrying pictures of Chairman Mao; you can offer to help establish houses of underage prostitution; you can make up quotations and attribute them to Rush Limbaugh; but when you make up quotations and attribute them to Aristotle, I get mad. Aristotle is supposed to have said,
If we believe men have any personal rights at all, then they must have an absolute moral right to such a measure of good health as society can provide.
Now it’s obvious that he said no such thing. No one had any concept of rights until the seventeenth century, much less personal rights, which would have to contrast with collective rights, an incoherent invention of the nineteenth century. There’s no word in ancient Greek that would be appropriately translated right. And what’s this absolute? That too is anachronistic. Society providing health, or anything else, for that matter? That too is completely foreign to Aristotle.
This is not to say, however, that Aristotle said nothing relevant to evaluating Obamacare. He would plainly have been appalled at the idea:
Further, private education has an advantage over public, as private medical treatment has; for while in general rest and abstinence from food are good for a man in a fever, for a particular man they may not be; and a boxer does not prescribe the same style of fighting to all his pupils. It would seem, then, that the detail is worked out with more precision if the control is private; for each person is more likely to get what suits his case. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X, 9)
Aristotle here gives voice to one of the classic objections to government regulation and provision of services of all kinds. Government of necessity applies universal rules, which frequently produce the wrong results in individual cases—even if, as is all too often not the case, they are the best possible universal rules one could adopt.