Should Conservatives Favor Government-Run Health Care to the Individual Mandate?

Over at Ricochet, via Instapundit, Paul Rahe argues that conservatives should prefer a government-run health care system paid for by higher taxes over an individual-mandate approach:

Government exists first and foremost for the sake of our protection. Without it, our lives and our property would not effectively be our own. Government exists also to promote our well-being. For its support, however, taxation is necessary, and we have tacitly agreed that, to be legitimate, these taxes must be passed by our elected representatives. By our own consent, we give up a certain proportion of our earnings for these purposes.

The money left in our possession, however, is our own — to do with as we please. It is in this that our liberty largely lies. Romneycare and Obamacare, with the individual mandate, changes radically our relationship vis-a-vis the government. The former presupposes that state governments have the right to tell us how we are to spend our own money, and the latter presupposes that the federal government has that right as well. Both measures are tyrannical. They blur the distinction between public and private and extend the authority of the public over the disposition of that which is primordially private. Once this principle is accepted as legitimate, there is no limit to the authority of the government over us, and mandates of this sort will multiply — as do-gooders interested in improving our lives by directing them encroach further and further into the one sphere in which we have been left free hitherto.

I’m curious: Did any conservatives express this view before President Obama embraced the individual mandate? Or at these sorts of arguments something that conservatives didn’t assert until long after the legislation was passed?

UPDATE: On April 3, 2010, a week or so after the individual mandate was passed, Rahe appeared to strongly endorse the following statement of Mark Steyn that was part of a broad criticism of the new law:

Whatever is in the [health care] bill is an intermediate stage: . . . the governmentalization of health care will accelerate, private insurers will no longer be free to be “insurers” in any meaningful sense of that term (i.e., evaluators of risk), and once that’s clear we’ll be on the fast track to Obama’s desired destination of single payer as a fait accomplis.

That’s the kind of criticism I remember at the time: Obamacare was really bad on its own, the argument ran, and even worse it was likely to lead to a government-run system in the future. As I recall, the thinking was that Obama really wanted a government-run system but didn’t get enough support for it outside the left, so he had to compromise with moderates and that resulted in the mandate.

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