Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Individual Mandate: Be Careful What You Wish For

Even if you agree that Congress should have the right to order a citizen to purchase health care insurance on the basis of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, you need to consider how this will expand the powers of the federal government to mandate other actions that you, your children and future generations may have to comply with.  Consider a party in power that disagrees with your ideology and imposes mandates on you to take actions opposite of your beliefs.  Can you visualize how allowing this mandate to stand is simply an abdication of individual liberty?

As the 4th District Court of Appeals deliberates the issue as the next step in a journey that both sides agree will end up at the Supreme Court, we are reminded that part of the genius of our Constitution is in how it defined a government of enumerated powers.  Those powers, specifically granted to the government by the people, clearly subjugate the government to the people regardless of the political agenda of those in power at any point in time.  Previous interpretations of the commerce clause, and the general welfare clause, broadened the powers of the federal government but only to increase the reach of its power to tax.  While those interpretations are still discussed in some circles, the mandate for a citizen who chooses not to participate in commerce to purchase a service to benefit commerce is a significant increase in the power of the federal government.  It will reverse the balance of power in favor of the federal government, subjugating the people to the will of the particular party in power at any given time.

This slope is indeed a slippery one.  If a party comes to power and passes legislation to mandate citizens to pursue education and careers based on the overall benefit to the nation’s commerce, rather than individual choice, it will be able to have that legislation upheld based on the precedent this current mandate will establish.  It will be argued that if the nation needs engineers and chemists, citizens should be tested and those with aptitudes in those disciplines should be mandated to direct their lives accordingly.  The argument will be strengthened by suggesting that these citizens are going to pursue careers anyway and the nation’s commerce would be benefited by mandating the direction of their careers.  If citizens fail to comply, the government would impose financial penalties.

If a party in power decides that migrating citizens from the suburbs to the cities would be beneficial for the nation’s commerce, it can pass legislation mandating such a migration and have that mandate upheld on the basis of the precedent created by this current issue.  An argument can certainly be made for the energy efficiency and time management efficiency gained from concentrating labor in and around centers of commerce.  If citizens fail to comply, the government would impose financial penalties.

A party in power could pass legislation requiring citizens to buy only American made cars or pay a financial penalty.  This may sound patriotic until it becomes clear that with a government mandate to purchase, performance and safety features will rapidly decline.

If these examples seem far from reality, consider China, North Korea and Iran as all too real evidence of central governments planning the lives of citizens and then mandating citizens to follow those life plans.  In these societies people are told how they will be educated, where they will work, where they will live and how they will live. Those in power argue it is all for the common good of the nation.  Do you really believe that if our government is granted similar authority over the lives of citizens that it will never abuse that power?  With the history of human kind being a consistent struggle for power over the lives of others, why would we in the United States of America grant more power to a central authority?

Do you really want a central government like that in China where a the government can decide that you will leave your farm or suburban home and move into a city because that is what the central planners have mandated?  Do you really want your children to be educated and pursue a career similar to how it is done in North Korea, where a central authority makes that choice for them?  Do you really want your grandchildren to follow certain cultural dictates as mandated by the ruling party as it is done in Iran?

It is always difficult for advocates on either side of any particular issue to see past the issue itself, but this time it is critical.  When considering the potential for abuse, how central planning is used to control the lives of citizens in other countries and the history of human nature, do you still think it is a good idea to grant our government the power to mandate a citizen to purchase a good or service?  Be careful what you wish for.

Big Government