04 April 2012

Distinction without difference

I've seen a lot of commentary over the last few days about the so-called "individual mandate" in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that discusses how the mandate is beyond the power(s) of the U.S. federal government and that the Supreme Court would be right to strike it down. Those same commentaries, however, then concede that the same federal government does have the authority to raise taxes and then use that money to provide health care, a la Social Security.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind:
  1. If the commentary, as described above, is correct, why is there such an uproar about the mandate? If the federal government really does have the authority--assuming it does so via the "proper" means--to force health care on every person within its jurisdiction, wouldn't it be far less injurious to individual liberty to allow people to choose from which provider they will get their insurance and the terms of that insurance? Furthermore, wouldn't it be far more economically efficient if individuals purchased insurance for themselves, saving the cost--both monetary and bureaucratic--of the government having to hire more IRS agents to collect the money and more functionaries to manage it?

  2. Isn't the real problem that the U.S. Constitution is all but worthless at this point? That is, if the mandate is such an affront to individual liberty, but the constitution allows the government to achieve the same ends via different means, what good is it as a protector of that liberty?


  1. It is interesting that regardless of how completely the Constitution is ignored, every so often an issue comes along that seems to be too much to swallow, in this case apparently five Supreme Court justices cannot wrap their minds around the concept that the Federal government could force us all to join a gym, subscribe to cell phone service, or eat broccoli. Unfortunately, however, the same Supreme Court would probably be just fine with a Federal law that forbids anyone from joining a gym that is not on an approved list and for a regulated price and/or levying a general tax the proceeds of which will provide a free gym membership to everyone. Whatever. Pretty much a distinction without a difference, but it's nice to see them bridling at something.

  2. In australia we have global health care, and if we choose to take out private health insurance (amusingly, lately private health providers haven't really been offering much better care than the government.. since so many people are opting out of government care for whatever perceived benefits they get instead), we receive a tax refund as we didn't use the government system.

    Actually considering how much the people who don't want government health care in america also hate paying tax, they should be very keen to have a tax break when they purchase their own private health insurance. See?

  3. @August 5, 2012 9:03 AM: You're missing the point. What about the people who, for whatever reason, don't have or don't want health insurance? They've been co-opted into the system against their will. Their liberty, in this area, has been taken from them.


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