Chait responds to his libertarian critics. He cites the headline above as an example of libertarian inconsistency on the mandate question. But the provocative headline and its exclamation point seem to me to be obviously acknowledging that Bailey is challenging some libertarian sacred shibboleths, while advancing others. There's a little wryness in the headline that Jonathan surely cannot miss.

And when you look at Bailey's overall argument, it is an admirable attempt by the right to address the need for universal access to health insurance while incorporating a much more market based system to hold down costs and spur innovation. It beats, say, what McCain was advocating by a mile. And if you see the mandate as a necessary evil to transform American healthcare, it makes sense. I don't think Chait is correct in saying that Bailey regards the mandate as a good in itself. Rather, Bailey is clear that it appears the least worst option, especially as he saw a single-payer system gaining traction in 2004:

If a national single-payer health care system is adopted, most medical progress will be stopped in its tracks. The proposal for mandatory health insurance offers a way to maintain our private system, expand consumer choice, lower costs, and allow medical progress to continue.

The point of the scheme is to

preserve and extend the advantages of a free market with a minimal amount of coercion.

Chait is right to observe that many libertarians' demonization of the Obama healthcare mandate represents a further turn to the right - a sign of the accelerating radicalization of the GOP since 2000. But there was a time when conservatives and libertarians had a chance to shape universal healthcare to conservative principles. They blew it. In that sense, Bailey was more prescient than he knew.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to