The Supreme Court’s decision on health care legislation was announced this morning, and in the best possible outcome it upheld the Affordable Care Act, but explicitly not for the reasons its supporters argued for. In the last congress the argument was made that the government could compel people to buy insurance under the Interstate Commerce clause of the constitution. The court rejected this out of hand, and instead upheld the law on the basis of the government’s power to tax, effectively naming proposed penalties what they are- a tax. The Democrats under Nancy Pelosi had claimed virtually unlimited power for the government by interpreting the commerce clause so broadly as to render it meaningless. The court decided that the government does not have the right to compel individuals to behave a certain way under the clause, thereby sharply limiting its application to actual commerce.
Chief Justice Roberts made the right decision, given the political dynamics of the day. If he had sided with the four dissenting judges, all Republican appointees, it would have been characterized as a political decision. The President has tried to undermine the court through outrageous, unprecedented attacks, and one can only imagine the reaction if the court had overturned his signature piece of legislation. In this decision the court reasserted the primacy of the constitution, which the left is increasingly prepared to ignore in pursuit of their agenda. By their reckoning if the constitution stands in the way of some supposed “higher good,” it should be ignored or stretched to oblivion.
Civil society is only possible to the extent that all sides agree on a basic framework of rules. But if one side does not accept the legitimacy of the rules the entire basis of social co-operation is undercut. There is a disturbing trend on the left towards claiming powers for the state it does not possess under the constitution. But in the absence of the rule of law such power becomes arbitrary and abusive. Thus we have legislation proposed, the content of which remains a mystery, until, as Pelosi stated, the bill is passed. This kind of contorted logic has characterized the whole process with regard to the act. What they do not seem to understand is that if the limits of the constitution are abandoned by one side, the other side can do the same, to their detriment.
The health care issue is far from settled. It remains a piece of legislation passed over the objections of a majority of the public, but now it has been restored to the democratic process. It will now be discussed and debated as it should have been in the first place. Each side has a clear position diametrically opposed to the other, and it will now be an issue in the November election. Thus. it will likely be resolved by the political process. That is why we have elections.