MittRomney4.jpg

What is Wrong With the Individual Mandate?

ParisParamus: Again, why is a mandate like Romneycare less conservative than raising everyone’s state income taxes to pay for the free riders? Or, why isn’t Romneycare fundamentally different than having raised everyone’s state income taxes and then offering a credit if you get private health insurance for not being less of a potential burden on the state? WHY? · Dec 28 at 10:28am

There is a simple answer to the question posed by ParisParamus. Government exists first and foremost for the sake of our protection. Without it, our lives and our property would not effectively be our own.Government exists also to promote our well-being. For its support, however, taxation is necessary, and we have tacitly agreed that, to be legitimate, these taxes must be passed by our elected representatives. By our own consent, we give up a certain proportion of our earnings for these purposes.

The money left in our possession, however, is our own — to do with as we please. It is in this that our liberty largely lies. Romneycare and Obamacare, with the individual mandate, changes radically our relationship vis-a-vis the government. The former presupposes that state governments have the right to tell us how we are to spend our own money, and the latter presupposes that the federal government has that right as well. Both measures are tyrannical. They blur the distinction between public and private and extend the authority of the public over the disposition of that which is primordially private. Once this principle is accepted as legitimate, there is no limit to the authority of the government over us, and mandates of this sort will multiply — as do-gooders interested in improving our lives by directing them encroach further and further into the one sphere in which we have been left free hitherto.

NewtGingrich6.jpgManagerial progressives see only the end — preventing free-riders from riding for free. And they ignore the collateral damage done by way of the means selected. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have no understanding of first principles. For both of these social engineers, citizens are subjects to be worked-over by the government for their own good. Both men are inclined to treat us as children subject to the authority of a paternalistic state under the direction of a benevolent and omniscient managerial class.

There is, however, this difference between Romney and Gingrich. The latter may or may not fully grasp why the Tea Party rose up against the individual mandate, but he recognizes that they did so, and he knows what is good for him — so he has now backed away from the fierce advocacy of this despotic measure that once characterized his posture. The former is more stubborn. Politically, he is tone deaf. He seems constitutionally incapable of grasping the argument, he insists that the individual mandate is consistent with conservative principle, and he will not back off.

MittRomney3.jpgRaising taxes to reward free riders is, of course, objectionable. We should oppose it on principle. But it does not in and of itself narrow in any significant fashion the sphere of our liberty. It is a question of the proper use of the public purse. The individual mandate sets a new precedent. It extends government control to the private purse.

Back in May, in a post entitled The Last Man Standing, I wrote, “Frankly, I shudder at the prospect that Mitt Romney will gain the Republican nomination.” And I offered the following as an explanation:

As I argued in my book Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, there is built into liberal democracy a natural tendency to drift in the direction of the administrative state with its concentration of power in the executive branch of the central government and its entitlement programs. This propensity can only be successfully resisted if we understand its origins and if we take cognizance of the manner in which the American regime, as envisaged by the Founding generation, was designed to stand in its way. This propensity has been systematically and quite effectively exploited by the Progressives and their heirs now for something like a century. What they understand that we need to understand is that a reversal of the trend is well nigh impossible – well nigh, let me add, but not quite. Well nigh because those in possession of entitlements will scream bloody murder if they are threatened. And not quite because, thanks in part to our unwitting benefactor Barack Obama, we no longer have the resources to support the entitlements state. We can certainly raise taxes, as President Obama and the Democrats intend to do, but that does not mean that in the long run we will take in more revenue – and it is massively increased revenue that the entitlement state needs. The Progressives are banking on the unwillingness of a considerable part of the electorate to give up the subsidies on which they live, and on this they have always to date successfully banked. Right now, however, the fiscal crisis of the welfare state offers us an opening, and I am confident that Mitt Romney will miss it. He is the sort of man who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Since 1928, when Calvin Coolidge relinquished the Presidency, the office has been held by a number of Republicans – Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Only one of these has displayed an understanding of the problem we face, and he was, for understandable reasons, too preoccupied with wining the Cold War, to confront that problem with all of his energy. Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush père, and Bush fils were all what I call managerial progressives. Their claim over against the liberals was that they could manage the administrative state more efficiently and effectively than their counterparts. Rarely if ever did any of them mention the Founders. Rarely if ever did they appeal to the first principles of our form of government as they are expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Rarely if ever did they appeal to the Constitution in opposition to the jurisprudential drift of the Supreme Court. Limited government was not part of their vocabulary. They were without clue.

The reasons are simple enough. Not one of these men was properly educated in the principles of American government. They had their virtues. They were practical men, can-do sorts with a pretty good understanding of how to get from here to there. In terms of moral understanding, as it is applied to political matters, however, they were bankrupt or pretty nearly so. The ordinary senior at Hillsdale College these days has a better grasp of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the conditions of freedom than did any of these men.

The same is true of nearly all Republicans. They come into Congress, the Senate, and state government from the Chambers of Commerce. Few of them have any sort of political education. Most are businessmen. If they have something more than an undergraduate education, it is reflected by their possessing a law degree or an MBA – which is to say, they have been trained to be managerial progressives. Our law schools and our business schools owe their origins to the Progressives. They were created for the purpose of encouraging what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called “rational administration.”

The reason why I oppose Mitt Romney is simple, He was born to destroy everything that we have accomplished since the Tea-Party Movement emerged in the Spring of 2009. Romney is the very model of a managerial progressive. He has one great virtue. He knows how to run things; he knows how to organize things. He would make a good Secretary of Commerce. He has no understanding of the principles that underpin our government. And, in fact, like most businessmen, he is a man almost devoid of political principles. Give him a problem, and he will make a highly intelligent attempt to solve it. Ask him to identify which problems should be left to ordinary people and what are the proper limits to government’s reach, and he would not understand the question. He is what you might call a social engineer; and, in his estimation, we are little more than the cogs and wheels that need to be engineered.

Not surprisingly, Romney is a political chameleon. When he ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy in 1994, he rejected the legacy of Ronald Reagan and embraced abortion. When he ran for the Republican presidential nomination, he altered his profile in both regards. It seems never to have crossed his mind when, as Governor, he confronted a Democratic legislature in Massachusetts intent on introducing socialized medicine that the individual mandate is tyrannical. Flexibility is what substitute for virtue in his case.

Romney’s political instincts are disastrous. He will betray the friends of liberty and limited government at the first opportunity. If he is nominated, the people who joined the Tea Party and turned out in 2010 to give the Republicans an historic victory are likely to stay home. If, by some miracle, the progenitor of Romneycare actually defeats the progenitor of Obamacare, he will quickly embrace the entitlement state and present himself as the man who can make it hum, as he did in Massachusetts. He is not better than Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush père, and Bush fils. He is cut from the same cloth, and in practice he is apt to be far, far worse. The consequence will be the death in American life or at least the decay of the impulse embodied within the Tea-Party Movement.

Everything that I have learned about Mitt Romney in the six months that have passed since I wrote these words has served only to confirm my fears. I have no idea whether the Republicans will prevail in November, 2012. That they have an historic opportunity is clear. But it seems highly likely that their standard-bearer will be a man firmly and fiercely committed to the very same progressive principles that animate their opponents.

In 2002, while running for the governorship in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney said, “I have progressive views.” In the most recent Republican Presidential debate, held shortly before Christmas, he strongly denied that his views had changed in the interim on anything but abortion. For the most part, I think, we should take him at his word. He was in 1994 and in 2002 a man with “progressive views,” and he still is.

I would like to believe that, if Romney is the Republican nominee (as I have long believed he will be), conservative voters will hold their noses and vote against Barack Obama (as I will do). The support that Ron Paul is now drawing in Iowa and elsewhere suggests, however, that this is in no way certain. Even, however, if Romney and the Republicans win an historic victory in 2012, I doubt that anything will be done by this managerial progressive to roll back the administrative entitlements state. If I am right in my fears in this regard, the Tea Party impulse will dissipate; the Republican party will split; the Democrats will return in 2016; and 2012 will be seen in retrospect as just another bump in the long, gentle road leading us to soft despotism.

  1. Frozen Chosen

    Paul, I am interested in getting your opinion on the difference between mandating auto insurance and health insurance at the state level.  if I am hit by an uninsured driver I end up paying the costs via increased auto insurance premiums.  If someone chooses not to get health insurance and they get very sick or injured, I end up paying the costs via increased taxes or higher hospital charges.

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both.

    I believe Romney understands this difference as he has said so on numerous occasions.  So why do you feel that his endorsement of an individual mandate at the state level – where it is clearly constitutional – would mean he would endorse it at the federal where it is just as clearly unconsitutional?

  2. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Frozen Chosen: Paul, I am interested in getting your opinion on the difference between mandating auto insurance and health insurance at the state level.  if I am hit by an uninsured driver I end up paying the costs via increased auto insurance premiums.  If someone chooses not to get health insurance and they get very sick or injured, I end up paying the costs via increased taxes or higher hospital charges. · Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    The difference is huge. Auto insurance is mandated solely as a condition for using public thorough-fares, and the mandate is a function of the danger that one driver poses to others on those thorough-fares. If we do not wish to drive, we do not have to pay for auto insurance. Moreover, we are not required to take out insurance for breathing, walking, or talking because we do not ordinarily endanger others when we engage in these activities. Driving on public thorough-fares is a privilege — extended to all who pass a competence test and purchase insurance. Breathing, walking, and talking are rights.

  3. No Caesar

    “Managerial progressives see only the end — preventing free-riders from riding for free. And they ignore the collateral damage done by way of the means selected.”

    …and if history is any lesson, the “collateral damage” is significant (Great Leap Forward) and the supposed beneficial ends are ephemeral at best.

    I think Romney would repudiate RomneyCare if he could.  But he’s been whacked with the flip flop label too much, and also RomneyCare was his most significant accomplishment as governor.  So he’s made the tactical decision to spin it.  My reasoning is based on being familiar with the venture/start-up world.  Anyone who is successful here keeps a sharp eye for an exploitable opening in the status quo and is unafraid to discard — quickly and dispassionately — that which doesn’t work, even if it’s your own idea.  As we know Romney was VERY successful in the VC world… 

  4. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Frozen Chosen: 

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both.

    I believe Romney understands this difference as he has said so on numerous occasions.  So why do you feel that his endorsement of an individual mandate at the state level – where it is clearly constitutional – would mean he would endorse it at the federal where it is just as clearly unconsitutional? · Dec 28 at 2:30pm

     Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    States have broad police powers that the federal government does not have. They can, however, use them tyrannically. Whether Romneycare is lawful is important. Whether it is tyrannical is far more important.

    Romney’s state-federal distinction is a dodge on his part. When he responded to Obamacare by saying that he would repeal the bad and keep the good, he singled out the individual mandate as good. He was willing to acquiesce in the federal program as a fait accomplis.

  5. Tommy De Seno
    C

     In Massachusetts are the permiums one pays for the mandatory insurance done with pre-tax or post-tax income, or a mixture of both?

    How about Obamacare?  Anyone know?

    Also:  The nation operated just fine without income taxes for a very long time (Ron Paul claims income tax is about 45% of the government’s revenue, and we could run the government at 1990 levels today with just the other revenue).

    It appears to me that the our rediculous spending is a result of the government shoving a spigot into our paycheck.  The individual mandate may represent a bigger spigot.

    We need to turn it back off and remove it.

  6. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Frozen Chosen:

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both. Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    The US Constitution as interpreted by whom? The Massachusetts Constitution as interpreted by whom? There is very little clarity in either case.

    For what it is worth, I see no reason why the federal government could not mandate auto insurance for those who drive on federally-financed roads. Even under a conservative interpretation of the interstate commerce clause, that would seem legitimate.

    Mandating health insurance — just for being alive — that is another matter.

  7. The King Prawn

    Even, however, if Romney and the Republicans win an historic victory in 2012, I doubt that anything will be done by this managerial progressive to roll back the administrative entitlements state. If I am right in my fears in this regard, the Tea Party impulse will dissipate; the Republican party will split; the Democrats will return in 2016; and 2012 will be seen in retrospect as just another bump in the long, gentle road leading us to soft despotism.

    We win a very important battle but at the cost of losing the war. If this is true, then what value to liberty is the 2012 election? Would not getting to the catastrophe sooner (i.e. while people like Paul Ryan are still young) be perhaps an equal, if not better, option? If I drank I would do so now.

  8. Frozen Chosen
    Paul A. Rahe

    Frozen Chosen: Paul, I am interested in getting your opinion on the difference between mandating auto insurance and health insurance at the state level.  if I am hit by an uninsured driver I end up paying the costs via increased auto insurance premiums.  If someone chooses not to get health insurance and they get very sick or injured, I end up paying the costs via increased taxes or higher hospital charges. · Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    The difference is huge. Auto insurance is mandated solely as a condition for using public thorough-fares, and the mandate is a function of the danger that one driver poses to others on those thorough-fares. If we do not wish to drive, we do not have to pay for auto insurance.  · Dec 28 at 2:44pm

    I don’t see the difference being as huge as you do.  Driving is really not optional if you live between the coasts - it’s pretty much a necessity if you want to work.

    As far as Romey’s federalist approach being a dodge, you and I will just have to disagree on that one.

  9. Frozen Chosen
    Paul A. Rahe

    Frozen Chosen:

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both. Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    The US Constitution as interpreted by whom? The Massachusetts Constitution as interpreted by whom? There is very little clarity in either case.

    For what it is worth, I see no reason why the federal government could not mandate auto insurance for those who drive on federally-financed roads. Even under a conservative interpretation of the interstate commerce clause, that would seem legitimate.

    Mandating health insurance — just for being alive — that is another matter. · Dec 28 at 2:56pm

    According to my reading, The US constitution does not grant the federal govt the power to require insurance of any kind on its citizenry.  Of course some people expand the commerce clause in all sorts of goofy ways but I think most of us on this site agree that these expansions are wrong.

  10. liberal jim

    When the debt bubble finally implodes is it better for conservatism that a liberal Democrat is in the WH or a progressive Republican?  If the GOP nominates someone who might address the problems I will vote for him/her.  I do not view Romney as such a person.

  11. James Of England
    Paul A. Rahe

    Frozen Chosen:

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both. Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    The US Constitution as interpreted by whom? The Massachusetts Constitution as interpreted by whom? There is very little clarity in either case.

    For what it is worth, I see no reason why the federal government could not mandate auto insurance for those who drive on federally-financed roads. Even under a conservative interpretation of the interstate commerce clause, that would seem legitimate.

    Mandating health insurance — just for being alive — that is another matter. · Dec 28 at 2:56pm

    Can you quote any informed source for, or otherwise support the claim that there is uncertainty regarding the constitutionality of MassCare under the state constitution?

  12. Robert Promm

    Sooooo… how did they get away with FICA — Federal Insurance Contribution Act — established social security??

  13. James Of England
    Frozen Chosen

    Paul A. Rahe

    Frozen Chosen:

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both. Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    The US Constitution as interpreted by whom? The Massachusetts Constitution as interpreted by whom? There is very little clarity in either case.

    For what it is worth, I see no reason why the federal government could not mandate auto insurance for those who drive on federally-financed roads. Even under a conservative interpretation of the interstate commerce clause, that would seem legitimate.

    Mandating health insurance — just for being alive — that is another matter. · 

    According to my reading, The US constitution does not grant the federal govt the power to require insurance of any kind on its citizenry.  Of course some people expand the commerce clause in all sorts of goofy ways but I think most of us on this site agree that these expansions are wrong. ·

    I think that Reagan’s abuse of the Constitution opened the door to federally compelling state mandates as conditions for prosperity in Dole.

  14. The King Prawn
    Robert Promm: Sooooo… how did they get away with FICA — Federal Insurance Contribution Act — established social security?? · Dec 28 at 4:00pm

    Because it’s just a tax like any other. See Helvering v Davis:

    The proceeds of both taxes [employer and employee] are to be paid into the Treasury like internal revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way.

  15. Tommy De Seno
    C
    Robert Promm: Sooooo… how did they get away with FICA — Federal Insurance Contribution Act — established social security?? · Dec 28 at 4:00pm

    This is exactly why I asked (comment #5) whether RomneyCare and ObamaCare premium payments are made with pre-tax dollars, post-tax dollars or a mixture of both.

    I have a real problem if it is with post-tax dollars.   If they take control of my post tax dollars (5th Amendment, anyone?) then I envision the Revolution to be not far behind.

  16. KC Mulville

    Does anyone else see it as … shall we say ironic … that …

    • the individual mandate is considered necessary to prevent free riders, who receive services (gasp!) without paying for them!

    • and free riders are possible only because the law insists that healthcare services must be provided, whether the person has insurance or not 
    • but that “must-treat” policy is instituted so that other people will still receive services … without paying for them! 

    Aren’t poor people as much “free-riders” as rich people? 

    Look, as far as I’m concerned, providing emergency services to poor people is a humane and wonderful thing to do. Fine. But let’s cast it as charity (or better, let charitable organizations provide the services).

    I don’t like the idea of government portraying people who don’t buy insurance as “free riders,” as if they’re moral lepers leeching off the rest of us – - thus justifying the government confiscating funds from everyone else, and the price going up for everyone. 

    Where I come from, we call that a racket. 

  17. Conservative Episcopalian
    Paul A. Rahe

    Even, however, if Romney and the Republicans win an historic victory in 2012, I doubt that anything will be done by this managerial progressive to roll back the administrative entitlements state. If I am right in my fears in this regard, the Tea Party impulse will dissipate; the Republican party will split; the Democrats will return in 2016; and 2012 will be seen in retrospect as just another bump in the long, gentle road leading us to soft despotism. ·

    This seems to assume that no one in the Congress, including Messrs. Ryan, Boehner, Rubio, Sessions, McConnel, Paul and Toomey will have any say in any legislation, confirmations, or in any of the operations of government. It also assumes that whoever the VP is (likely a TEA party person) that he or she will not have any say either. Furthermore it assumes that no one in the Romney administration will have any desire as well. While it may be true that Romney likely won’t be a lighting rod for limited government and for rolling back the entitlement state, he will not likely stand in the way of these men as they take their shot at it.

  18. James Of England
    Tommy De Seno

    Robert Promm: Sooooo… how did they get away with FICA — Federal Insurance Contribution Act — established social security?? · Dec 28 at 4:00pm

    This is exactly why I asked (comment #5) whether RomneyCare and ObamaCare premium payments are made with pre-tax dollars, post-tax dollars or a mixture of both.

    I have a real problem if it is with post-tax dollars.   If they take control of my post tax dollars (5th Amendment, anyone?) then I envision the Revolution to be not far behind. · Dec 28 at 4:22pm

    It’s health insurance, so it depends on how you buy it. One of Romney’s key platforms is portability of health insurance, which would make it pre-tax dollars for more people. At the moment, post tax for some, after reform, post tax for fewer (perhaps entirely post-tax for none, but with upper limits to implied government subsidies…. I don’t recall how the details of that talk came out, nor if there have been shifts on the detail).

  19. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Frozen Chosen

    Paul A. Rahe

    Frozen Chosen:

    Clearly the US Constitution does not grant the federal government the right to mandate either auto or healthcare insurance.  Evidently the state constitution of Massachusetts allows the state to mandate both. Dec 28 at 2:30pm

    Edited on Dec 28 at 02:31 pm

    For what it is worth, I see no reason why the federal government could not mandate auto insurance for those who drive on federally-financed roads. Even under a conservative interpretation of the interstate commerce clause, that would seem legitimate.

    Mandating health insurance — just for being alive — that is another matter. · Dec 28 at 2:56pm

    According to my reading, The US constitution does not grant the federal govt the power to require insurance of any kind on its citizenry.  Of course some people expand the commerce clause in all sorts of goofy ways but I think most of us on this site agree that these expansions are wrong. · Dec 28 at 3:22pm

    In the first half of the 19th century, the commerce clause was used to allow the federal government to police river traffic in any number of ways. There is plenty of precedent.