The Magazine

The Man Who Likes Mandates

Mar 26, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 27 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The impatient manager looks at the current system and hears complaints about some people not being insured. So he commands, “I’d say each state needs to get busy on the job of getting all our citizens insured.” Or, as Obama and a Democratic Congress have subsequently done, imposes a federal mandate that diminishes our individual liberty and erodes religious freedom.

Romneycare was an understandable effort to fix the system over which Mitt Romney presided in Massachusetts. But the country has changed markedly in the last six years—without a corresponding change in Romney’s views. If our current problems lent themselves to technocratic and managerial fixes, Romney could be a reasonably compelling candidate. But they don’t.

Indeed, what Republican primary voters sense is that a technocratic and managerial mindset could prove an obstacle to coming to grips with the situation we face. If the problem is a liberty-encroaching unlimited government, we don’t need that government to run more efficiently. If the problem is a suffocating nanny state, we don’t need better organization of the nannies. If we have an opportunity to revitalize citizenship, we need leaders who view us not as clients to be managed or consumers to be served, but as self-governing citizens who would fare better without an overbearing and overweening government. If we are sick of being managed by liberal technocrats, we’re not going to be thrilled merely to replace their rule with that of moderately conservative technocrats.

Mitt Romney likes mandates. Conservatives—especially in light of Obamacare—don’t. Conservatives like liberty.

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