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What do conservatives think will happen if the individual mandate gets struck down?

Real-life libertarian Tim Lee is confused by the arguments against the individual mandate:

There’s nothing particularly outrageous about the health care mandate. The federal government penalizes people for doing, and not doing, any number of things. I’m currently being punished by the tax code for failing to buy a mortgage, for example. I’d love it if the courts embraced a jurisprudence that placed limits on the federal government’s ability to engage in this kind of social engineering via the tax code. But no one seriously expects that to happen. The same Republican members of Congress who are applauding Hudson’s decision have shown no qualms about using the tax code for coercive purposes.

The test case for conservative seriousness about federalism was Raich v. Gonzales, the medical marijuana case. Justices Scalia and Kennedy flubbed that opportunity, ruling that a woman growing a plant in her backyard was engaging in interstate commerce and that this activity could therefore be regulated by the federal government. If Scalia and Kennedy now vote with the majority to strike down portions of ObamaCare, it will be pretty obvious that they regard federalism as little more than a flimsy pretext for invalidating statutes they don’t like. Or, worse, for giving a president they don’t like a black eye.

I take it for granted, of course, that most conservatives aren’t serious about federalism, or even about the abstract issues behind the individual mandate, and that if President Romney had proposed this plan, it’d be Democrats mounting the court challenges. But here’s what I would like to know: If Republicans manage to sabotage this bout of health reform, what do they think comes next? I occasionally hear people mutter something about Singapore, but Singapore relies on a compulsory national savings scheme — that is to say, the government forces you to put away money for health-care expenses even if you don’t want to do it. That’s just another form of an individual mandate.

So this is a real question: What’s the end game here? For liberals, it’s opening Medicare up to other age groups. It’s really not impossible to imagine that happening at some point in the future, and if it happens, the estimates are that Medicare will be something like 20 percent cheaper than private insurance and will drive most insurers out of business. But what do conservatives think will happen?







Ezra Klein