Cain, the Chilean Model, and the Individual Mandate

Cain's public lack of understanding about public policy goes beyond 9-9-9.

This item is on my mental “to do” list to blog about, but I don’t have time for full analysis and yet I don’t want to forget about it either, so here’s the quick version.

Via TPM:  What Herman Cain Might Not Know About The ‘Chilean Model’

[Cain’s] also been fond of touting the “Chilean Model” for privatizing Social Security — pitching it as a series of free-market, private savings accounts. But in fact, whether he and his conservative fans realize it or not, Cain is in fact embracing the kind of policy prescription that they have been railing against on certain other subjects throughout this whole campaign.


In short, the “Chilean Model” so touted by Cain is the individual mandate. What “Obamneycare” is to health care, Chile’s pensions system is to Social Security, with a system of mandates, regulation and subsidies.

The basic point being:  that even if one tries to introduce market elements to a universal social program (such as old age pensions) one has to have government oversight and, more dramatically, said government oversight has to include some level of coercion to guarantee said universality.

The fundamental point here is not, per se, that Cain is either being hypocritical/doesn’t understand his own policy preferences (either of which may be true), but that in general our debates about social policy, specifically of the type that has to be universal (meaning that all citizens partake of it) requires a significant amount of government involvement (which, by necessity means “a system of mandates, regulation and subsidies”).  It is an unavoidable fact.  It is likewise unavoidable that it cannot be a pure market solution, because a real market has to allow for failure.

These points, by the way, dovetail with what I was trying to get at in my post The Apple Store is Cool, but is not a Model for Social Policy.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    This is the same man that when asked how people who couldn’t afford food now would be able to afford food with a 9% sales tax replied they should buy used food.

  2. BleevK says:

    Couldn’t we just call him what he is, an idiot?

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Is Cain unaware the Chilean government heavily subsidizes their retirement program? Because they do.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    That’s because the individual mandate was a conservative idea, until Obama indicated he supported it. Then overnight it became the greatest threat to freedom imaginable.