Individual Mandate Foe Inadvertently Refutes Self

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JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 2, 2011

Individual Mandate Foe Inadvertently Refutes Self

National Review's Iain Murray argues, "Now that the individual mandate has been found unconstitutional, some on the left are starting to claim it was a conservative idea originally." (Actually, some on the left have been pointing this out for a couple years, but never mind.) Nonsense, writes Murray, citing this 1994 paper from the Cato Institute:

It’s worth noting, though, that most of us in the free market movement have never embraced the health insurance purchase mandate. And I’m proud to dig out of the archives an old Cato Institute paper (pdf) written by my former CEI colleague Tom Miller(now at the American Enterprise Institute), which roundly criticizes the 1993-94 Republican compromise legislation. Tom found a lot of faults in those bills, and he singled out the individual purchase mandate as being especially egregious. While acknowledging that, from a political perspective, “any legislative alternative to the Clinton plan must guarantee universal coverage,” he wrote:

"The most troubling aspect of the Nickles-Stearns legislation, as introduced on November 20 [1993], is the mandate that it imposes on all Americans to purchase a standard package of health insurance benefits. By endorsing the concept of compulsory universal insurance coverage, Nickles-Stearns undermines the traditional principles of personal liberty and individual responsibility that provide essential bulwarks against all-intrusive governmental control of health care."

Wait. He's citing a paper criticizing the Republican health care plan, co-sponsored by arch-conservative Don Nickles, for including an individual mandate. Murray seems to think this refutes the fact that Republicans used to support the individual mandate.

Now, clearly, there were some fringe elements on the right who opposed an individual mandate (though not until until the entire GOP had abandoned the idea for political reasons did any of them think to argue it was actually unconstitutional .) The point is that Republicans, even very conservative Republicans, both created and supported the individual mandate for years before deciding en masse it was not only undesirable but an affront to liberty and the Constitution.

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posted in: jonathan chait, tom miller

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