If Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Is Constitutional, What Limits Are There On Congress’ Power?

Glenn Reynolds has posted ”[a]n honest question for lefties” from Radley Balko that I think is really important to consider as we continue the discussion of Obamacare and the Commerce Clause:  “If your answer is no, that is, that the Constitution puts no real restraints on the federal government at all, why do you suppose they bothered writing and passing one in the first place?”

I would also ask a slightly different question as well:  

If Obamacare’s individual mandate is constitutional, what limits are there on Congress’ power to compel Americans to act, or to refrain from acting?

  • Can Congress prohibit a woodworker from building bookshelves for his own use in his own home?  
  • Can Congress prohibit a woodworker from building bookshelves to give to his neighbor, for free, for use in her home?
  • Can Congress require Americans to purchase an apple a day, to keep the doctor away? 
  • Can Congress prohibit Americans from growing their own apples, to protect apple growers?
  • Can Congress prohibit Americans who grow their own apples from giving extras away to friends and neighbors?
  • Can Congress require all Americans to participate in 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day?
  • Can Congress require all Americans to buy a bicycle, to foster good health?

If Obamacare’s individual mandate is constitutional, I believe that the answer to each of these questions is yes.  And if the answer to these questions is yes, we no longer live in a country with a constitutionally limited government.

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Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 11:03 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] would a decision supporting the individual mandate allow a “limiting principle”?  I cannot think of one.  But then, I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale, so I guess I’m not smart enough to divine […]

  2. […] The Weak Liberal Case For The Individual Mandate Although I remain skeptical of the chances of lawsuits challenging the Obamacare individual mandate under the Commerce Clause, one compelling question is gaining traction among the commentariat.  As Jennifer Rubin frames it: “If the government can force you to buy insurance, is there any limit to its power?”  Or as Megan McArdle put it: “On a reading of the commerce clause that allows the government to force you to buy insurance from a private company, what can’t the government force you to do?”  I asked it myself here. […]

  3. […] under ObamaCare is constitutional, what are the limits of federal power over the U.S. citizenry.  I asked a few questions along these lines here. I have not seen a single serious response from ObamaCare’s […]


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