Judge Andrew Napolitano

This jurisprudence has resulted in the courts approving the congressional regulation of the thickness of leather in shoes, the water pressure in home showers, the amount of sugar in ketchup, ad infinitum. Wherever you go in the United States, it is impossible to avoid confronting federal regulation of human behavior unmentioned in the Constitution, but justified by Congress under the Commerce Clause. It will be necessary for the court to put a backstop on this absurd progression of congressional power in order to invalidate Obamacare's individual mandate.

The other line of Commerce Clause jurisprudence that the court will confront started with a farmer growing wheat exclusively for the consumption of his family during the Great Depression, and the feds ordering him to grow less wheat. He resisted that order, and his resistance led to an infamous Supreme Court opinion that upheld the feds' order. That 1942 case stands for the propositions that even infinitesimal economic behavior, even behavior that is not numerically measurable, even behavior that is not of a commercial nature, even behavior that does not move products across interstate lines can be regulated by Congress if, when all the similar behavior in the land is taken in the aggregate, it could have an effect on interstate commerce. This aggregation theory is the most anti-historical, hysterical, disingenuous, convoluted ruling in the court's history. But it is still the law today, and it will be necessary for the court to distinguish or to overrule this case, too, in order to invalidate the individual mandate.

Justice Antonin Scalia reminded his colleagues during oral arguments this week that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and it means today what it meant when it was written and ratified. If Congress can compel you to buy health insurance because that's good for you and for the country's economic health, he asked, can it force you to eat broccoli? And if it can, what is the value of having a Constitution that was written to limit the government's powers?


Judge Andrew Napolitano

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. He sat on the bench from 1987 to 1995, during which time he presided over 150 jury trials and thousands of motions, sentencings and hearings. He taught constitutional law at Seton Hall Law School for 11 years, and he returned to private practice in 1995. Judge Napolitano began television work in the same year.

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