Kevin Drum Doesn’t Get It

Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum’s piece Congress Already Has the Power to Make Us Buy Things We Don’t Wantmisses the point.

His point, as I understand it, is the federal government already mandates airbags in cars, so how is that different than mandating health insurance?

He closes with this:

Practically speaking, then, what’s the difference between this and an insurance mandate? In both cases the federal government is forcing me to buy something I might not want. The cost of complying with both mandates is substantial. You can be fined for disabling airbags or removing seat belts, just as Obamacare fines you for not buying health insurance. They’re pretty damn similar.

I understand that it’s possible to draw a distinction between airbag mandates and health insurance mandates. It’s possible to draw a distinction between anything if you put your mind to it. But in real-life terms, what’s really the difference? Not much, it seems to me. Unless you live the life of a hermit, Congress already regulates inactivity heavily and extensively. There’s stuff you have to buy whether you like it or not. Welcome to the modern world.

Here’s where he misses the point: The government isn’t forcing you to buy a car. That’s how it’s different. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay different than the federal government mandating you buy health insurance or pay a fine*. (*Certain religious groups excepted.)

I personally don’t support federal airbag mandates, or seatbelt mandates. I’m more of the Milton Friedman view, which is that automakers have a natural incentive to build better safety features into cars since that’s one of the things consumers want. (Good video on him discussing it here, I think it’s in part one or two.)

If States (like California and its emissions regs) want to go hog wild, that’s perfectly fine with me. 

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