Andrew Sullivan has one of those posts that the left loves, a righteous word-lashing against the campaign from FreedomWorks and others to encourage young Americans to deny themselves health insurance in an effort to thwart the Affordable Care Act. Conservatism, argues Sullivan, may entail striving for freedom from government influence but it also includes the responsibility that comes with it’s absence; to yourself and your community. More specifically, a dedication to a life of self-governance that does not unduly burden others by your actions (or in this case, non-action) when you get sick, don’t pay your bills, and raise prices for everyone else. Thus, health insurance, even one brought about by the state, can be thought of as an attempt to take some of that responsibility upon yourself. Yet while no one — not even Andrew himself I think — would consider his words representative of where American conservatism is right now when it comes to health insurance and the Affordable Care Act, he specifically quotes a famous anti-statist, champion of individualism, philosopher that’s decidedly more difficult to refute:
Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong … Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make the provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.
That quote comes from The Road to Serfdom, the 1944 tome from Austrian-born and 20th century libertarian and conservative icon Friedrich von Hayek. This is hardly some wishy-washy RINO advocating state involvement in basic insurance schemes. Hayek was no Romney.
But thinking about it further, there’s another anti-government icon that can be appealed to if conservatives are looking for some ideological justification to participate in Obamacare:
It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.
That quote comes from Ayn Rand in a 1966 article for The Objectivist Newsletter. This is the woman who was a ferocious opponent to nearly everything the United States government had done in the 20th century. She also reportedly relied on Social Security during her twilight years, and maybe was comforted by the above justification. So there’s three conservative cases for, if not the establishment of a government-involved insurance framework, then at least getting your money’s worth from the ‘theft’ used to fund it.