Posted by: captainfalcon | March 4, 2011

A Juicy Ort of Falcon-Bait

Here’s an interesting argument for the individual mandate:

There’s no reason to put off the campaign for a mandatory private system until we’ve worked out all the details. To keep the great American health innovation machine running, it is vital to keep medicine private and consumer-driven, and that means going on the offensive now.

Maintaining our private medical system is vital because American health care and medical science are the most advanced and innovative in the world. If a national single-payer health care system is adopted, most medical progress will be stopped in its tracks. The proposal for mandatory health insurance offers a way to maintain our private system, expand consumer choice, lower costs, and allow medical progress to continue.

Who wrote it?

Lured. The libertarian Reason Magazine, which is not as hot on an Individual Mandate nowadays. Another weird and otherworldly passage:

Mandatory health insurance would be not unlike the laws that require drivers to purchase auto insurance or pay into state-run risk pools. They also resemble the libertarian Cato Institute’s proposals for reforming Social Security, which do not eliminate mandatory payments; they privatize them. Similarly, school voucher plans generally mandate that children receive an education. As the Rose and Milton Friedman Foundation notes, universal school vouchers would allow “all parents to direct funds set aside for education by the government to send their children to a school of choice, whether that school is public, private or religious.” This system separates “the government financing of education from the government operation of schools.”

This is a wonderful example of what an ideological group might be saying if the social context was different. It’s rare that you can do other than imagine an alternative political reaction; this is one instance where the counterfactual world is actually laid out for you to see (and the purely rhetorical nature, and social underpinnings, of ideological “analysis” therefore laid bare).

Jonathan Chait does a fairly good job explaining how it is that libertarianism is equally capable of endorsing and rejecting Obamacare: “health care policy is complicated. And the role of the market and government policy are so difficult to separate, meaning the same policy can easily be framed either as more socialism or as more free market.” Framing, as I have explained before, is what movement theoreticians do:

[O]ne of the few ways in which political advocacy groups can actually change things is by repeating, ad nauseam, the thankless task of trying to portray as many episodes as they can get away with as dangerous examples of activity that is already generally thought of as problematic. Involving as it often does lying, this approach is not quite as noble as forthrightly trying to persuade others of the normative desirability of a preferred vision for society – i.e. as trying to change what situation-types are typically thought problematic … Advocacy occurs within a pre-existing ideological structure, which it can manipulate but not change.

In short, it’s a nice example of politics that isn’t based in principle. (:

Hat tip.



  1. Agreed that many people initially raised near-unconditional and effusive support for the individual mandate until President Obama decided he could live with it, then suddenly found it the root of all evil.

    Amongst those people, I actually suspect there are two different types. The first is the one you refer to with the “politics that isn’t based in principle” – those who are self-deceiving. While their “team” supports something they can find no flaw; when their team opposes it every flaw is magnified beyond all proportion… and they generally don’t consciously realize how inconsistent their two views were.

    The second is more simple – not self-deceiving, but simply deceiving. In this case, it’s those who have always preferred individual mandate to single-payer, and always preferred optional private insurance to individual mandate. While the two options under discussion were single-payer and individual mandate, they naturally would lie through their teeth about the benefits they saw in individual mandate (as the lesser of two evils); having successfully gotten single-payer off the table they immediately change their stated position on individual mandate.

    In this latter case, the principles by which someone is forming their opinions and policies may not have changed at all – they simply are willing to lie about what their principles imply if they think that best advances the cause of those principles.

    I’m undecided on which of the two types is more pernicious.

    Oh – and please never end your posts with emoticons again.

  2. Ah. The emoticon. What you’re noticing is that I’ve changed my brand. I’m coming for you…


  3. I agree with your major [or possibly minor, depending on how jarring you found the emoticon (:] point, and there are those working against the individual mandate (and also, presumably, engaged in most other political causes, as well) who are simply willing to lie.

    But I’d also add a hybrid class: those who help construct disingenuous political responses (and so aren’t just following the team) but aren’t self-consciously deceptive about it. Instead they couple a technician’s facility with political categories with an instinct for the general outcome that is (from their group’s perspective) desirable at any given time. But they aren’t sufficiently reflective to be able to distinguish the two activities – intuiting the desirable outcome and applying the political categories to try to reach it – in which they’re engaged. So they legitimately think that the categories drive the outcome, as opposed to vice versa. (Obviously, I could just be making this shit up. We’re skirting the line between social studies and pop psychology here. But it seems right to me.)

  4. Final point – just to make explicit why “thinking that the categories drive the outcome” is compatible with being unable to distinguish the activities of intuiting the desired outcome and applying the categories – you can recharacterize those separate activities as “analysis,” e.g. “inferring the the truth from first principles,” which appears to be ONE uninterrupted activity.

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