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Mitt Romney Must Clarify Defense Of Individual Mandate

I sympathize a little with former Gov. Mitt Romney on the issue of the individual mandate. In effect, the conservative movement pulled the rug out from under him.

He copped the idea from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think  tank. Conservative legal scholars didn’t cry foul when Romneycare  passed in 2006. Tea Party enforcer Sen. Jim DeMint didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich explicitly supported it as late as 2008.

But when it became a central element of Obamacare, it suddenly became the thin end of the socialist wedge.

Still, Romney stretches things with his recent defense of the mandate:

What we did was right for the people of Massachusetts,  the plan is still favored by 3 to 1 and it is fundamentally a  conservative principle to insist that people take personal  responsibility as opposed to turning to government for giving out free  care.

Is the mandate really a reflection of the principle of personal responsibility?

Doesn’t the purist case for personal responsibility look more like the one made by Rep. Ron Paul in the Tea Party debate, in which Paul said freedom is about letting people suffer the consequences of risky behavior?

Put it this way: If Romney and Paul both say they’re for insisting on personal responsibility, they can’t both be right.

What we have here are two subtly different conceptions of “personal responsibility.”

When Romney uses the phrase, he means that, in the decision to  purchase a major medical insurance policy, there’s a self-evidently  “responsible” choice: You get coverage, even if you’re young and  healthy.

When Paul uses it, he means you should be free not to buy it—and the  rest of us shouldn’t have to foot the bill if your luck turns rotten.

Romney the technocrat probably thought of the individual mandate in  terms of Cass Sunstein (currently serving in the White House’s Office of  Information and Regulatory Affairs) and Richard Thaler’s “nudge theory” of human behavior: Government can encourage people to make better choices through wiser “choice architecture” instead of blunt instruments.

The problem for Romney, of course, is that lots of conservatives now  believe the mandate is a blunt instrument—and lustily cheer at Paul’s  more exacting definition of personal responsibility.

If Romney wants to continue to use the phrase to win over  conservative skeptics, he’s going to have to clarify what he means by  it.


By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, December 28, 2011

December 29, 2011 - Posted by | Election 2012, Individual Mandate | , , , , , ,


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