Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Most Important Supreme Court Case in 50 Years

This week, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the constitionality of ObamaCare.  Tim Sandefur calls it the most important case in 50 years.  I agree with Sandefur that the case is extremely important.  The issue of whether the insurance mandate is a good thing or not aside, this will be a landmark case that determines the scope of what congress can and cannot regulate.  It seems with the Raich and Wickard cases, this is already settled, but ObamaCare goes quite a bit further by regulating not just participation in a market, but even non-participation. 

The case has been heard at several lower courts, with mixed results.  Judge Vinson of the District Court in Northern Florida ruled against ObamaCare.  If you are interested in the case at all, and the legal arguments and precedents bearing on it, Vinson's ruling is a great read, regardless what you think of his conclusion.  He goes over the entire background and the legal arguments from both sides.  The text as linked is heavy with quotes, footnotes and parenthesis, which makes it a little hard to read, but it is worth it.  Here is a quote:

It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congresscan regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third partymerely by asserting --- as was done in the Act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce”, it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power”[Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only.Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.