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Mortal Peril: Our Inalienable Right To Health Care? Hardcover – March 24, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0201136470 ISBN-10: 0201136473 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201136473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201136470
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,031,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Noted legal scholar Epstein challenges the right to universal healthcare, deriving his fundamental argument from his own interpretation of common law, the basis of American justice. Epstein argues that the system of rights and duties enshrined in common-law principles cannot be extended as obligations to provide care and assistance. He fears that state control of redistributive taxation threatens to shift entitlements from old to young and rich to poor and guarantees state support for a system of healthcare that, in the long run, may not provide an adequate structure for reform and regulation. Examined here are the notions of positive rights to healthcare, limited access, comprehensive care, and liability, particularly regarding the controversial topics of organ transplants and euthanasia. Well reasoned, scholarly, and controversial, this book is highly recommended for academic collections.?Mary Hemmings, Univ. of Calgary Lib., Alberta
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A legal scholar's densely written argument that the good old days of laissez-faire were better. Epstein (Univ. of Chicago) claims that the welfare of the general population has been brought into mortal peril by the assumption that a proper health care system requires government controls. He traces the evolution of ideas of rights from the common-law concept of negative rights (freedom from the actions of others) to the more modern system of positive rights--to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and by extension to health, housing, education, and other desirable ends. The latter system, he complains, targets the state with duties of support, builds in extensive taxation, and forces the redistribution of wealth. In his view, the old common-law rules do a far better job of providing health care than the present complexity of government regulations with their many unintended and harmful consequences. Thus, he sharply criticizes Medicare and Medicaid, with their emphasis on expanding access and subsidizing services, and the Clinton administration's failed health care proposals for further broadening access. A defender of autonomy rights, property rights, and contractual freedom, Epstein next focuses on specific areas in which the state prevents individuals from doing what they want with their bodies and their lives. His defense of baby-selling and surrogate motherhood, his advocacy of a free and open market in organs for transplant, and his arguments for removing the ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide are sure to arouse protests from many quarters. His thesis that an unregulated health care system will ultimately provide better care and better access to greater numbers of people is, if not disingenuous, certainly disputable. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on December 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
A fiercely libertarian roommate of mine gave me this book to read, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was about more than health care. The beginning is actually a good primer on common law, and an effective encapsulation of the philosophical foundations of libertarian thought. Epstein effectively cuts through the platitudes that have been shaping decades of largely ineffective government policy-the sanctity of every single human life, for example-and explains how accepting these commonplaces can lead to results that are worse for everyone.
The section dealing with common law mostly discusses the distinction between positive rights and negative rights. Positive rights are those that grant a people the right TO something: liberty, for example, or the right to a decent standard of living. Negative rights give the people the right NOT to have something happen to them: infringement on their person or property, or unfair treatment by another party. Far from being a small semantic distinction (I'm sure all of us can think of how most laws could be stated in either positive or negative form) Epstein shows how positive rights are much harder to enforce, and generally lead to a variety of perverse consequences when we try. The rest of the book-dealing with the Clinton health care proposal, for example-has dated, but is worth reading for the application of these ideas.
Epstein writes an elegant but dry sentence, with occasional jargon, and except for the times when he gets passionate, the book moves along at a stately plod: I had to reread several sections to make sure I understood them. But he is clear, and avoids the most intolerable feature of many libertarian thinkers: intellectual smugness.
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By Lee, Dongjin on April 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read the korean translation of this book and though I disagree on the author's view in many aspects, I find this book really interesting as well as informative. So I decided to buy the english version of it. Not being american, I can't understand how americans manage to live in their healthcare system. Some radical arguments of the author are surely hard to struggle against.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Allen Epstein (born 1943) is a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law, as well as associated with the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution, and the Heartland Institute. He has written meny books, including Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain, Why Progressive Institutions are Unsustainable (Encounter Broadsides), Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1997 book, "This book represents my sustained effort to demonstrate that the source of our collective anxiety begins with the elaborate and counterproductive schemes of entitlements that live off the illusion of abundance of scarcity. It deals first with the grand question of health care... Alas, this book is not rich in quick fixes for intractable problems."

He begins by stating, "The central thesis of this book is that the rules of the game as have just been laid out are more likely to lead to a sensible regime for the reform and regulation of health care than the dominant regime." (Pg. 19-20) He adds, "I think that the strongest theoretical argument in favor of a welfare right in health care, or anywhere else, is one that exploits the wedge between maximizing social wealth and maximizing utility." (Pg. 31)

He suggests that "No political system will be able to turn people away once the coverage is made universal." (Pg.
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8 of 44 people found the following review helpful By D. B. Lazof on December 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
This might be a valuable book to read for someone who is involved in working towards the right to health care, as well as for opponents of all economic and social rights. The book's great weakness and dishonesty lie in omission of the relevant context of the author's opposition to all social systems of care (police and fire departments, public education, libraries etc.). The last 7 pages of the preface are all that most people need to read (not the other 500 pages). A one page summary and discussion of this book is posted at [...] click on Discussion -books .
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