Bill Murchison

Yes, yes, says White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Congress has the power to make everyone buy health insurance. "I don't believe there's a lot of case law that would demonstrate the veracity" of comments to the contrary.

Thank you, Mr. Justice Gibbs. We'll see about all that when -- if -- the matter of Congress' power over private commercial judgments of this nature gets to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Meanwhile the knock-down, drag-out over health insurance "reform" shouldn't be allowed to fuzz up another immensely vital question; to wit, how in James Madison's name have we reached the point that Congress can so much as contemplate telling you, and you, and you, and all of us that we'll buy health insurance, like it or not, Buster? Why do we have to? Because the government says so, isn't that reason enough?

For Mr. Justice Gibbs, and the people who employ him, it is. Just about anything Congress decides to do in the name of uplift seems to be constitutional: In other words, in accord with written stipulations as to what the national government may and may not do.

Several problems arise concerning this fine theory:

-- It's nonsense. It contravenes the whole constitutional concept of divided powers: particular functions reserved to particular branches of government. And other powers divided between states and the national government.

-- It threatens liberty. A government that knows no limits to its power can be counted on to step more and more heavily on citizens' rights and privileges. All for the "general good" naturally!

-- It divides the citizens. On the one hand, those who want particular favors from government; on the other hand, those who deny that government has the right to dispense such favors.

The Obama administration, which desperately wants health care to pass, brushes off such concerns as cranky and relevant mainly to wild-eyed Limbaugh and Palin fans, when in fact concerns about the rightful exercise of government power should inform every legislative debate. Those it doesn't inform are likely to end badly.

Majority support of this or that initiative doesn't legitimize the initiative. Wise or foolish, the thing can't be done at all if doing it isn't within the competency of the body making the effort. And that's never mind how many people favor it.


Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
 
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