FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Made-up Aristotle quote?
Here we go again*. From James Taranto’s Best of the Web:
Yesterday we received an email from a loyal reader who nonetheless seems to disagree with everything we write–a type of reader for whom we have a special, if slightly perverse, affection. Our correspondent included a quote that he attributed to Aristotle:
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.
Could an ancient philosopher, a man who lived and died many centuries before the advent of either socialism or modern medicine, really have been in favor of socialized medicine? We were skeptical, to say the least, and decided to do a bit of Web sleuthing.
Said sleuthing indicated that if the quote exists in what we have left of Aristotle’s works, interested researchers have not been able to find it. It’s also revealed an interesting point about the quote: while it’s been reported that RFK had used it during his 1968 Presidential campaign (examples here and here**), the earliest reference from it so far is from 1979.
*Possibly slightly unfair to bring up the Julius Caesar / Barbra Streisand thing – but then, life isn’t fair.
186 when he spoke at the University of Indiana Medical School: [John] Nolan interview; JFKLOH [Oral Histories, John F. Kennedy Library], Nolan; JSOH [Oral Histories compiled by Jean Stein and George Plimpton, John F. Kennedy Library], Quinn, pp. 37-42 (Quinn made a tape of the event and played it during his interview with Jean Stein); [Jules] Witcover, 85 Days, pp. 165-66; NYT, April 23, 1968; RFKCS [RFK: Collected Speeches], pp. 342-44; Indianapolis Star, April 27, 1968
Another visit to the library is in order; fortunately, RFKCS is available at my local one. I’d be very interested to peruse the oral history records, but I don’t have the research budget to fly to Boston. At any rate, it should be reasonably easy to verify that RFK actually used the quote; it’ll either be part of the speech transcript, or on the available recordings (the only one that isn’t would be the one from Jean Stein’s collection, but it’d be very odd if that was the only place that this showed up).
Crossposted to Moe Lane.