Thursday, May 12, 2011
If this editorial in the Wall Street Journal is any indication, Mitt Romney isn't going to get away so easily with his posturing against ObamaCare, and hasn't a leg to stand on as a presidential candidate. That's the good news, but it may be more than made up for by the bad.
The Romney camp blames [the government-run medical care mess in Massachusetts] on a failure of execution, not of design. But by this cause-and-effect standard, Mr. Romney could push someone out of an airplane and blame the ground for killing him. Once government takes on the direct or implicit liability of paying for health care for everyone, the only way to afford it is through raw political control of all medical decisions.Pay careful heed to the last sentence, including the full context about who Paul Ryan is and what he's about. Ryan, who imagines that such programs as Social Security and Medicaid can be "reformed," also is no capitalist. (Otherwise, he'd be clear that the best way to "encourage" competition is for the government to stop manipulating the economy altogether, and would speak of phasing out instead of reforming entitlement programs.)
Mr. Romney's refusal to appreciate this, then and now, reveals a troubling failure of political understanding and principle. The raucous national debate over health care isn't about this or that technocratic detail, but about basic differences over the role of government. In the current debate over Medicare, Paul Ryan wants to reduce costs by encouraging private competition while Mr. Obama wants the cost-cutting done by a body of unelected experts like the one emerging in Massachusetts.
Many conservatives will pay homage to principles one moment, only the next moment to say, in effect, that we should go only so far in applying them, or that always applying them is childish or ridiculous, and ultimately, that they should be "chucked" whenever they become inconvenient. The result of this is that many conservative commentators will catch or call out a nearly pure pragmatist like Mitt Romney, but miss a less obvious one like Paul Ryan or even enable him to pass himself off as a capitalist. We can thus expect conservative appreciation of the need for principles to go only so far, and the value of conservative commentary to be severely compromised, to put things very mildly.
Whether a candidate is pro-capitalist is not a matter of degree, or a matter of not being as blatantly unprincipled as Mitt Romney. That judgement requires an uncompromising application of objective principles, and an appreciation of the need to apply them at all times.