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“A constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory.”

[ 12 ] March 31, 2010 |

Wrongful Death asks:

If the courts rule that the federal government can force you to buy a product produced by a private company or pay a punitive tax, then why can’t the federal government force you to buy a Chevy from them? What’s to stop them?

The fact that such a law would have no political support and have no chance of being enacted. You can see this in the fact that Congress has not tried to accomplish similar ends through methods that are indisputably constitutional (just cutting a check to everyone who buys Chevy, raising tax rates and giving a huge tax credit to everyone who buys a Chevy, etc.) You’re welcome!

It should also be noted that if in the bizzaro political universe (the planet Strawman?) in which such a law could be passed, it is very possible that the Court would uphold the law anyway. Courts generally side with powerful elites, and to the extent that there’s some ghost of a chance that the Court will strike down the individual mandate it’s because there’s a substantial but powerful minority committed to that vision of the Constitution. And for that matter, why would the Chevy law be unconstitutional (as opposed to egregiously dumb?) It really requires an actual argument, because the Constitution gives Congress the power to pass all kinds of idiotic laws (cf. Congress 2001-2007 passim.)

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Comments (12)

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  1. rea says:

    A constitution was not intended to embody a particular economic theory? Are you sure? I thought the Fourteen Amendment was intended to enact Mr. Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics.

  2. tc says:

    See Pollock v. Farmers Trust (1895)(Harlan, J., dissenting):

    “It was said in argument that the passage of the statute imposing this income tax was an assault by the poor upon the rich, and by much eloquent speech this court has been urged to stand in the breach for the protection of the just rights of property against the advancing hosts of socialism. With the policy of legislation of this character, this court has nothing to do. That is for the legislative branch of the government. It is for Congress to determine whether the necessities of the government are to be met, or the interests of the people subserved, by the taxation of incomes. With that determination, so far as it rests upon grounds of expediency or public policy, the courts can have no rightful concern. The safety and permanency of our institutions demand that each department of government shall keep within its legitimate sphere as defined by the supreme law of the land. We deal here only with questions of law. Undoubtedly, the present law contains exemptions that are open to objection, but, for reasons to be presently stated, such exemptions may be disregarded without invalidating the entire law and the property so exempted may be reached under the general provisions of the statute. Huntington v. Worthen, 120 U.S. 97, 102.

    If it were true that this legislation, in its important aspects and in its essence, discriminated against the rich, because of their wealth, the court, in vindication of the equality of all before the law, might well declare that the statute was not an exercise of the power of taxation, but was repugnant to those 675 principles of natural right upon which our free institutions rest, and, therefore, was legislative spoliation, under the guise of taxation…The provisions most liable to objection are those exempting from taxation large amounts of accumulated capital, particularly that represented by savings banks, mutual insurance companies, and loan associations. Surely such exemptions do not indicate sympathy on the part of the legislative branch of the government with the pernicious theories of socialism, nor show that Congress had any purpose to despoil the rich.”

    See also, Veezie v. Something or Other (1863-ish)(Adam Smith did not inform the Framers of the Constitution).

  3. Michael Balich says:

    Well, the metaphor/analogy is actually more like “if they can make you buy insurance, why couldn’t they make you buy a CAR”. Note, the government is not making you buy insurance from a particular company. State/local governments routinely pass laws that make it nearly impossible to walk or ride your bike, so in effect they already do this!

    • Michael Balich says:

      And really, to take the metaphor further, if you don’t buy a car, you simply miss out on an opportunity to get places faster. If you don’t get insurance you miss out on the opportunity of what amounts to a tax break.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        And why don’t state governments, which again unquestionably have this power, force everybody to buy Chrysler Sebrings? What will stop them??????

  4. It’s also a pretty crappy analogy. It’d be somewhat more accurate if the government forced everyone to buy a car, which sounds ridiculous until you realize that the government ALREADY forces everyone to buy car insurance….

    Stupid within stupid…

  5. Rick Massimo says:

    So in 2000 we found out that we don’t necessarily elect a president. And the conservatives were cool with that.

    And in 2006 (I think it was) the AG of the US said that there was no right to habeas corpus in the Constitution. And conservatives were more than cool with that – you hated America if you thought otherwise.

    And in 2010, the idea of fines for not buying health insurance are a CRISIS because “ZOMG this offends the constitutional principle that I just pulled out of my ass!”

    Have I got this about right?

  6. El Cid says:

    I’ve come to believe that recent TeaTard theorizing now seems to hold that it is more or less un-Constitutional for Congress to pass laws, since there really shouldn’t be anything but the Constitution.

    In the 1990′s shortwave / militia right they basically convinced themselves of the same, arguing on yet another weird wordplay chain that the only ‘real’ authorities in the country were local sheriffs, because of whatever bullshit they had glommed onto after consuming and/or selling vast quantities of colloidal silver.

    • tomemos says:

      “I’ve come to believe that recent TeaTard theorizing now seems to hold that it is more or less un-Constitutional for Congress to pass laws, since there really shouldn’t be anything but the Constitution.”

      Right—legislative activism, one might call it..

  7. MartyL says:

    Okay, so let’s accept, arguendo, that it’s unconstitutional to require people to buy health insurance. Not a problem, folks don’t really need health insurance anyway, what they need is health care. So institute universal health care and raise income taxes sufficiently to cover the cost — constitutional crisis averted.

  8. uh oh says:

    Why doesn’t the government illegally wiretap and detain citizens? Who/what will stop them?

    Oh. They do, and no one/nothing does. I guess political [i]elan[/i] makes right.

  9. Алекс says:

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