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From Paul Ryan Is 'Not A Fan' Of Romneycare And Compared It To Obamacare:

They see how this idea of having the government be the sole, single regulator of health insurance, defining what kind of health insurance you can have, and then the individual mandate, it is a fatal conceit.

I have tried to understand the meaning, but I could not grasp it all. I don't understand the usage of "conceit" here. Someone please re-write this sentence so it's simpler to understand.

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closed as off topic by MετάEd, Matt Эллен, kiamlaluno, tchrist, Mahnax Aug 27 '12 at 9:07

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That sounds like a quote and not something someone would write. It strings two different, albeit related thoughts into a single sentence. But I would say that conceit should be interpreted as An extravagant, fanciful, and elaborate construction or structure. See here –  Jim Aug 12 '12 at 8:00

2 Answers 2

This sounds like the kind of sentence people say but wouldn’t write. A paraphrase would be (missing out some of the more flowery excrescences):

They see that it is a fatal conceit to have the government as the sole health care regulator together with the individual mandate.

A word on a couple of the phrases here.

  • Fatal conceit means something like deadly pride or lethal hubris, I think. However, another meaning of conceit is concept, so that the phrase could mean lethal concept/idea—though I doubt that this is what’s meant.
  • Individual mandate means a mandate (order) on the individual to do something, in this case, from memory, to purchase health insurance.

The difficulty with the quoted version is that the speaker (rather than writer, I assume) begins a lengthy description (a participial phrase modifying a participial phrase containing two partially redundant adjectives). They then tack on another phrase (and then the individual mandate), which it is hard to integrate into the growing sentence (what, for instance, is the elided verb meant to be?). Finally, they reach it is a fatal conceit. This forces you to interpret everything that has gone before as a hanging topic (e.g.: The economy, it’s central to the debate). But the result feels zeugmatic: it is is singular, but having the government and the individual mandate sound like separate things, so we expect a plural.

In sum, I sort of feel you deserve congratulations for not quite understanding the original.

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A fluent speaker might indeed find fault with the grammar, but the semantics are straightforward. You're right about this sounding spoken rather than written - in fact, in speech it's common to "break" the grammatical rules we'd find in writing. –  Mark Beadles Aug 12 '12 at 17:32

NOAD mentions that one meaning of conceit is a fanciful notion. Candidate Ryan was essentially stating his position that government-run health care (with government as the sole, single regulator of health insurance, along with individual mandates) was doomed to fail.

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