The Ruling that Means Nothing

I don’t waste my time reading political commentary. Most of it, left, right, center, and libertarian, is partisan garbage. I have no doubt, and the few articles I have been unable to avoid reinforce my belief, that the leftish pundits are crowing about the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare and the rightish pundits are screaming “judicial activism”. Were I to chime in, in either direction, I’d be lying to you.

Here’s the skinny: The Supreme Court’s ruling is one of the most conservatively written opinions I’ve seen. And that means something, because I’ve read over 50,000 court opinions. If someone tells you that the Court stretched, bent, or ignored the law, they’re either ignorant or lying—the reality is that the Justices bent over backward to rely on uncontroversial precedent and to not create any new law.

I’m quite serious. Contrary to the headlines, when legal historians write about the destruction of America, this latest decision will be relegated to a footnote. It is not a landmark decision. It is not judicial activism. The case came before the Court, so it had to rule. But had the case never made it that far, America’s future would not be changed in any significant way.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Obamacare is a big step in the wrong direction for America. It’s going to drive up health care costs, cause health care to be further rationed, and sap the productivity of America. But it’s just One More Entitlement in a long line of entitlements. It’s just One More Violation of individual rights in a long line of abrogated rights. It, by itself, won’t be the death of America. Rather, it is the courts’ abdication of a principled interpretation of the Constitution in combination with America’s belief in entitlement that is deadly. See my previous post, The Mutation that Will Kill America.

I would have cheered myself hoarse had the Supreme Court shot down Obamacare. That would have signaled an end to the courts’ toleration of the American public’s willingness to abandon its rights in favor of entitlements. But that was never going to happen. The Supreme Court rejected the idea of limited government almost 200 years ago and there was no way it was going to do an about-face that would have required trashing two thirds of today’s government.

The Supreme Court merely stood on the law as it exists, ratifying again America’s suicidal plunge into the abyss of entitlements. As the Supreme Court itself has noted, time and again, it is up to the American people to put a stop to such abuses of power as Obamacare. But Americans cannot stop saying “gimme, gimme!” long enough to see where the entitlement society must lead.

Bye, America. We hardly knew you….


2 thoughts on “The Ruling that Means Nothing

  1. The decision represents an extension of the taxing authority; I’m not sure exactly how much. If we took the Constitution seriously, the only direct tax on individuals which was originally allowed is a head tax, and the Sixteenth Amendment adds an income tax to that. A federal tax on not buying insurance doesn’t fall under any Constitutional authority.

    However, the income taxing authority has already been extended to tax people differentially on grounds having nothing to do with income. The main difference is that so far these have been implemented as credits or deductions rather than as positive taxes. In effect, you’re taxed on not giving to charity or not installing energy-efficient appliances. But allowing positive taxes on disapproved actions (or, in this case, inactions) further extends the federal power to control people’s behavior through taxes.

    • Well, no. It’s not an extension, any more than, say, the differential tax rates paid by married and single people is an extension. Once the 16th Amendment gave Congress general authority to tax incomes, Gibbons required that to be interpreted as a carte blanche to tax incomes in any way Congress wished. That most certainly includes taxing income not spent on health insurance.

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