Herein lies the problem.
Republicans are afraid of actually standing for conservative principle when it comes to policy. Here is the conservative policy take on health insurance: A free market guarantees the highest-quality, lowest-price service in any market. Skewing that market with government-backed incentive schemes reduces efficiency, destroys competition, and undercuts quality. If we all truly want better health care, the only way to provide it is through measures that incentivize a higher supply of health care, not a rationing of the available care through redistributionist schemes. That means the first priority for Republicans should be removing damaging regulations on pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits.
Yet those are precisely the two provisions about which Republicans are most skittish. Here, again, is Ryan — this time making his pitch to George Stephanopoulos:
We can achieve the goals we all want, which is getting the cost of coverage down and making sure that everyone has access to affordable health care, especially and including people with pre-existing conditions. That is what our bill does.
But that is explicitly not what the bill does. It may bring down the cost of health care in states that opt out of Obamacare regulations, but it does not get rid of the federal mandate. And no system short of full-scale subsidization of those with pre-existing conditions will bring down costs for them, particularly without an individual mandate forcing those who are young and healthy to sponsor those who are not.
The result of this political gobbledygook is that free markets take the hit. As always. Advocates of the free market aren't consulted about whether the bill at issue actually reflects free-market principles. Instead, Republicans simply say that giant government subsidy schemes are "free market," Democrats take them at their word for political purposes, the Republican subsidy scheme fails in the same general way that a Democratic scheme would have, and the public clamors for more government involvement — to which Republicans answer by stating that they'll administer that government involvement more efficiently than Democrats would. You know, to save the free market, and all that.
This is what happened in 2008, when President George W. Bush justified his series of bailouts of major financial institutions by appealing to the flaws of the free market: "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free market." It is quite possible that a government action might be necessary to provide a corrective to bad government policy as a transition toward free markets, but Bush's line seemed to imply that he had spotted a flaw in the free-market system that required government intervention.
That, of course, is the entire premise of the neo-Keynesian Left. With regard to the financial crash of 2008, of course, that was claptrap: It was government interventions in the mortgage market, combined with government interventions in financial markets, that led to the moral hazard that culminated in the financial collapse. Nonetheless, Americans received one message loud and clear: 2008 represented a failure of capitalism.
The same is happening now on health care. When the Republican scheme fails to provide health-care utopia — which it will, since a heavily regulated system is the problem to begin with — the public will assume that those free-market Republicans were to blame, along with the laissez-faire principles they supposedly champion. Americans will call for more government. That's Republicans' fault. If they're not going to buy free-market policies, they should stop pretending that they care about promoting free-market principles. Doing otherwise guts the case for free markets. And once that case has been gutted, only awful solutions remain.
Commentary by Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenShapiro.
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