|Romney, Gingrich Flunk Poli-Philosophy|
By Quin Hillyer
Tuesday, May 17 2011
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both have serious problems that have nothing to do with their presidential campaigns: At least on health care, both of them are statists, and philosophically incoherent ones at that.
The former House Speaker and former Massachusetts governor both defend the idea of an “individual mandate” to buy health insurance – Gingrich even on the national level, and Romney at least on the state level (and, by clear inference in the past, on the national level too). Their arguments completely miss the simple, underlying, philosophical principle inherent in the mandate question. The principle is this: No government, at any level, ought to be able to compel any individual to buy any good or service. Period.
Romney argued last week that the health-care plan he pushed through in Massachusetts (henceforth “RomneyCare”) was not just defensible, but a good idea. He hailed it as an excellent example of federalism at work. He said that what might be good for Massachusetts might not be good for other states, but insisted that RomneyCare as a whole was good for Massachusetts.
Setting aside the plain fact that Romneycare has been a massive failure in practical terms, Romney misses the point entirely. Even apart from constitutional questions, the mandate that is RomneyCare’s central feature is obnoxious. As U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson of Florida wrote in his decision striking down ObamaCare’s individual mandate, “It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place.”
Despite Romney’s weak rationalizing, the issue here isn’t utility, but liberty. Mussolini “made the trains run on time,” but that should never have justified his authoritarianism. Essential liberty must never be sacrificed on some central planner’s altar of efficiency.
It also would be disingenuous for Romney to suggest the mandate was some unfortunate compromise he had to make in order to enact the rest of RomneyCare. The truth is, Romney spent years arguing that the mandate was an essential feature of his law. Again and again, he cited it as a selling point. To anybody who believes that government should be limited not just in size but by function or powers – anybody who agrees with Jefferson that government should “leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement” – this sort of raw government coercion is anathema.
Then there’s Gingrich, who has pushed some form of individual health-insurance mandate at the federal level since 1993. He spent much of Monday backtracking, but he can’t erase the simple fact that his endorsement Sunday of a “variation” of the mandate was a continuation of his 18-year embrace of statism on the same subject. As he was endorsing a mandate variation, he denounced Paul Ryan’s proposed “premium support” plan for Medicare as “radical… right-wing social engineering.” The philosophical derangement is breathtaking.
How, pray tell, is it radical social engineering for the government merely to provide a sort of voucher to an individual and let the individual make his own choices? On the other hand, the mandate Gingrich supports is the very definition of social engineering, and radical at that. How is it not social engineering for the government to force somebody to buy health insurance or an equivalent, in order to make it feasible for government to provide the bones and structure of a bureaucratized health-insurance system, paid for by coercing tax money from its citizens, all while heavily regulating the insurance industry itself?
Gingrich, just as Romney spent years doing, has argued that a health-insurance mandate is no different from a car-insurance mandate. That’s nonsense. Almost all auto-insurance laws require not that the driver insure his own car against loss, but that he insure against damage he might do to other cars or drivers. It is not collision insurance but liability insurance that is mandatory – and even then, it is not mandatory on private roads. The mandates are part and parcel of a licensing regime through which the state allows a private citizen to operate a vehicle – an entirely discretionary activity – on public thoroughfares. This is entirely different than forcing somebody to buy insurance merely because the person lives and breathes in these United States.
Our own health choices, stemming from the mere act of existing in human form, are no business of the government. Romney and Gingrich both would violate the Declaration of Independence’s encomium to both life and liberty. If “conservatives” are those who want to conserve our system of ordered liberty, then it is Romney and Gingrich who are the profoundly unconservative radicals.
Related Articles :