Heaven help us. The US Supreme Court is about to rule on Obama care.
Why the concern? Because there is something more going on here than just legal argument. The question is whether an ideology about governance will render the US ungovernable.
America cannot be governed if its government lacks the power to cope with a serious policy problem. Out of control health care costs is such a problem. And Obama care addresses the problem in a pragmatic way. As Paul Krugman points out, there are two ways to do that. Either require people to buy insurance (the so called mandate) or tax everyone and give the insurance to them. Obama care takes the first option. So far so good.
The Supreme Court will consider whether the US constitution gives the federal government the authority to impose such a mandate. This is a novel legal argument — that allowing the federal government to impose such a requirement would be overly intrusive. BTW, the commerce clause has traditionally been interpreted very, very, very broadly. And for good reason. Effective national regulation of interstate commerce is essential for the US to work as a single entity. So here we go — underlying this new way of “legal” thinking is the idea that less government is by definition better government. This is ideology, not law. Randy Barnett is a leading intellectual voice behind this way of thinking. NYT profiles him here.
So if the federal government only has the power to prohibit, perhaps it should prohibit folks from getting sick.