Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are both receiving fire over Massachusetts’ version of universal health care, commonly known as “RomneyCare”: Romney for being the political parent of the plan as Governor, Gingrich for having enthusiastically supported it at the time.
Having favored such a plan in light of the politically explosive national version — ObamaCare — is seen as a cause to suspect the candidates’ conservative credentials.
Romney and Gingrich have given feeble responses to their critics on this issue, and have largely missed a prime opportunity to school the electorate in the United States’ system of federalism.
Despite what conventional wisdom would say, federalism is not a political plan that transfers all power and authority to the federal authorities. Federalism is simply the recognition that limited powers are granted to the national government, while all other powers are reserved to state governments. In other words, what is good at the state level is not necessarily good at the national level.
In the case of RomneyCare, Massachusetts citizens — through their elected representatives — pass a plan to pool resources and provide some measure of health care to all Massachusetts citizens. If a Massachusetts resident objects to the extent that he refuses to participate, he is able — under the federal system — to move to another State of the Union that does not have such a plan.
This was the intent and the superior wisdom of the framers of the Constitution. It was understood that the citizens of each state were better able to address their needs and desires than a centralized mass of bureaucrats who were far away, both geographically and philosophically.
Thus, the primary reason that ObamaCare is objectionable — as would be a national version of RomneyCare — is that is eliminates the federal option for citizens to vote with their feet. Under national healthcare — ObamaCare — if a citizen objects, moving to another State does not help him: he must move outside the jurisdiction of the national government. This sort of Hobson’s choice was what the Framers found to be an onerous burden on liberty, and is what they sought to avoid with the federalist system.
So RomneyCare is a perfectly legitimate expression of political will — for Massachusetts. The rest of us may debate the wisdom of the plan, and whether our respective States should explore similar plans, but not while under a threat that we, too, will all be subject to it; that decision is left to each State. ObamaCare is a perfect example of an illegitimate expression of political will because it subverts federalism and oppresses both State authority and individual liberty.