Illustration: A responsible child keeps his or her room clean regularly. You can generally find the floor, and you're not worried about stepping on GI Joe (or Barbie) in your bare feet. A responsible parent forces (mandates) their child keep their room clean. However, if I tell my son or daughter "Clean up your room," and they do so, that does not make my children responsible- it makes them obedient.
Likewise, if the Government says, "You must buy health insurance," this does not make someone Responsible who buys health insurance, it simply makes them obedient.
Explanation: Republicans claim to be the party of "self responsibility." Yet, when faced with the choice of promoting self responsibility or promoting the nanny state, they often conflate the actions of someone who is responsible with being responsible, and thus choose to promote the nanny state. A responsible person doesn't smoke or drink to excess. A responsible person will normally wear a seat belt. A responsible person will not, under normal circumstances, drive 120mph down the freeway. However, in some misguided attempt to "foster" responsibility, the Government, usually including Republican support, will often mandate behavior seen as responsible.
While it passed largely without Republican support, the current Health Care law's Individual Mandate to purchase health insurance is a prime example. Rather than accept that people have no inherent right to health care (more on that in a future post), Congress decided that, instead, they would force everyone to purchase a private product which is normally purchased by responsible people. Prior to that, even the very conservative Heritage Foundation had supported the idea of Insurance Mandates to "make people be responsible." When, in truth, the only thing it does is increase the demand for a product (health insurance) while not providing any way for supply to increase- which will always necessarily lead to price increases. Massachusetts is a prime example of this phenomenon.
The thing about responsibility is that it is only and always a personal virtue. No one can force you to be responsible. You choose to be responsible, or not. If the government were truly interested in fostering responsibility in the citizenry, the correct way to do it would be allow people to face, on their own, the consequences of their choices. If someone chooses not to get health insurance, then they should be the ones who face the consequences of those actions. This means we also have to remove the mandates from the other side of the ledger. We cannot force health insurance companies to insure people who should not qualify, but we we also cannot force doctors and hospitals to serve those who cannot pay.
The later will do so anyway, by-and-large, and there are numerous charities already which help those who need care they cannot afford. The former exist to help spread, or diversify, risk- and forcing them to insure people who are too risky only hurts those who are at less risk. Someone will rise up to fill that gap as well, if only the government will get out of the way.
Again it comes down to a question of Liberty vs Tyranny (a good book, by the way): if people are largely left alone, they'll take care of themselves and those around them. When the Government interferes, people become less concerned with those around them, and more people are harmed over all.