To Limit or Not to Limit, That is The Question, Again
The Supreme Court and Obamacare - the stakes could not be higher. Since history tends to repeat itself in the large, if not in detail, the arguments engaging its participants tend to repeat themselves as well. So, as our Supreme Court takes up the constitutionality of Obamacare, the same quandary arises that faced our Founders: to limit government or not to limit government? In no uncertain terms, if the individual mandate is upheld, it will be a decision against the judgment of our Founders. [for more click here]
Certainly, our Founders knew something of government control. Within the person of King George, lay lawgiver and decider. Monarchies represented the ultimate in centralization of power – the ultimate in mandates. Our Founders fought an 8-year revolution to begin an experiment in decentralization. By diffusing government power, they hoped to achieve their goal: not to be subject to mandates, not to be ruled.
Initially, the national government that Americans designed was loosely fashioned under the Articles of Confederation. The States were the center of power and government was divided - if not conquered. The individual colonies, countries to themselves, quarreled with such regularity, however, and passed such a multitude of laws that, in time, it was said we came to suffer from an “excess” of democracy.
Contract and property rights came under attack in the form of multiplying currencies and laws favoring debtors - not to mention unprecedented government debt and taxes. In response, our Founders “conservatively” came together to author a constitution that would limit government’s ability to tread on individual and property rights. Their goal, in part, was to create a sense of order – to put limits on run-away government.
Although the newly minted Constitution slowed the proliferation of paper currencies and state laws, in time, power gravitated to the federal government. Bit by bit, ambitious politicians would offer laws that fulfilled Jefferson’s warning that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
Our Founders thought they were combating the natural dynamic by offering a government of enumerated powers. In theory, Federalists argued that a Bill of Rights was not necessary because the powers of the federal government were specifically listed. In practice, a President Jefferson, in 1806 State of the Union, more than questioned federal funding of roads and education. Why? According to Jefferson, “I suppose an amendment to the Constitution . . . necessary because the objects now recommended are not among those enumerated in the Constitution, and to which it permits the public moneys to be applied.”
Their adherence to a limited government was not an idle concern. Among the most studied leaders in history, they were well aware of the rise and fall of Rome and other civilizations. They knew that the ambition-filled chase of politicians for social perfection is a debt-filled enterprise without acceptable returns. Determined not to repeat that history, they fought for and voted for what they thought was a limited government.
Mindful that history would work against their experiment, not long after, Senator Daniel Webster issued us this warning:
“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
Under the New Deal, Full Employment Acts and the War on Poverty, we became a government of good intentions. Obamacare is the latest in long line of good intention power grabs.
This time, however, rather than be content with simply taxing and regulating our health care system, the federal government now seeks to require private individuals to enter into private sector transactions, i.e. to buy health insurance. Never before has our government sought to compel such private activity.
But that is not all and will not be the end if this law is upheld.
Long before Obamacare, our government required our emergency rooms to provide health services to all people who come through their doors. Call it Act One in this story of government action. That action caused hospitals to incur costs that, in turn, they passed on to patients with insurance causing rising health care premiums. Then, among other things, came increased government mandates on insurance companies. Act Two further distorted the market causing even more rising costs and premiums.
Government now seeks to control those rising costs and premiums. How? Obamacare requires individuals to carry insurance to pay for such costs. The first mandate, you see, is never the last in this chase for unlimited perfection.
Not satisfied, the next step was for Obama to mandate what type of coverage employers, regardless of religious beliefs, must provide their employees including contraception – all in the name of controlling “our” costs. Act Three. Obama’s administration literally stated that the less people we have - the lower the costs. You see, even the First Amendment must fall to need to control rising costs.
What’s next in this unlimited world? Mandating life choices to keep costs down? We already have health care rationing that influences if not decides a person’s longevity. Will it be what food individuals can buy?
Think that is unrealistic?
How realistic was it that the federal government would tax some people in order to purchase control of GM, push out a CEO, hurt debt holders, and all but mandate the production of the Chevy Volt? Even more unlimited, California’s government has mandated the one in seven cars sold in 2025 be an electric vehicle – all in the name of clean air.
Long ago, they limited the emissions of cars. Now, if they can mandate the sale of a certain car, in an unlimited word, especially in the face of poor government motor sales, how long will it be until they mandate that individuals purchase those cars? After all, government already taxes you for their purchase of electric cars.
Such is the modern day version of the excess of democracy. Put another way, search though you might, no such power is enumerated. Yet here we are – nearly unlimited.
No one can say, fair-minded or otherwise, that our Founders wanted this. Our debt ridden, centralized, good intention seeking government was not what they had in mind. To the contrary, they voted for limits precisely because they knew it would come to this.
If this Supreme Court doesn’t uphold their judgment, our government will be without limits and like in Hamlet, we will have to ask: who goes there, friend or foe?