Testifying before Congress, a Harvard law professor named Charles Fried said that Congress would be within its powers to require every person in the United States to buy broccoli. This was during testimony on the constitutionality of the individual mandate found in President Obama’s health care reform package. This fully highlighted the problem with some so-called “experts”.
Fried’s testimony sprang from his belief that there’s nothing in the Constitution preventing Congress from passing a law that makes you and I purchase a product. Fried, who’s supposed to be better educated that little old me, is missing something called the Tenth Amendment. While it has been ignored for most of the past century or two, its words are key. It says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Now, Fried argued that there’s nothing to prevent such a law. However, there is. There is no enumerated power to require the purchase of a product anywhere in the Constitution. That puts that power in either the states’ or the people’s hands. Proponents of the individual mandate argue that Congress does have the power to regulate interstate commerce, which is where the justification comes from. Frankly, I’m not buying that. After all, commerce is the purchasing of a product, but not purchasing it isn’t commerce in any way. That is the behavior they are trying to regulate.
The truth is that experts can be found to justify anything and everything. I can show you “experts” who argue that guns are the root of all violence, and I can show you experts who show their evidence that more guns means less crime. I can find experts who say that global warming is because of people, and I can find experts that argue it doesn’t even exist. Other experts will argue that it exists but is a natural cycle that we can’t do anything about.
When these so-called experts testify before Congress, those men and women who were elected to sit up there listen. This leads to laws that you and I have to live with, all because these experts decided that simple phrases don’t actually have meaning. These experts seem to believe that the Constitution of the United States of America is malleable. I wonder how they would feel if things flipped?
In South Dakota, there is a bill before its state legislature that would require every adult over the age of 21 who is able to under federal law to purchase a firearm. It’s not entirely different from the law that Kennesaw, GA has on the books. It was introduced to make a point about the individual mandate, but as a state law it will miss making that point. Perhaps if it were introduced in Congress?
While it’s entirely possible that Professor Fried is consistent in his belief that Congress has the power to make people purchase a product, it’s doubtful that many proponents of the individual mandate share that sentiment. Perhaps when the product is something they abhor, like a gun, then they’ll have that “come to Jesus” moment with the limits of the Commerce Clause.
Then again, why should the Constitution matter to them at that point when it hasn’t matter to them before now?
Written by Tom Knighton. Read his blog at TomKnighton.com, as well as SWGAPolitics.com. A lifelong political junkie, Tom started out his adult life as a journalism major at Darton College before leaving school to serve his nation as a U.S. Navy Corpsman. Through the years, he has watched government from outside and inside. A former Reagan supporter, then later a Democrat, Tom now finds himself quite comfortable as a card carrying Libertarian and currently serves as Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia.