Terry Jeffrey

You can now divide Americans into two groups: Those who believe government rightfully has the power to force people to purchase goods and services they do not want and those who don't.

Among the former are two subgroups: Those who believe only state governments have this coercive power and those who believe the federal government has it, too.

President Barack Obama is in the latter subgroup. He signed a health care law that forces Americans to purchase health insurance.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in the former subgroup. He signed a health care law that forces people in Massachusetts to purchase health insurance.

In a debate last August on Fox News, Romney tried to explain his constitutional vision on when and where government can coerce people to buy goods and services they don't want.

Host Chris Wallace asked Romney: "Do you think that government at any level has the right to make someone buy a good or service just because they are a U.S. resident? Where do you find that authority, that mandating authority, government making an individual buy a good or service, in the Constitution?"

Romney initially seemed confused and answered an unasked question about Obamacare.

"The answer is, I think, you have to repeal Obamacare, and I will, and I'll put in place a plan that allows states to craft their own programs to make those programs work," said Romney.

"But, sir," said Wallace, "I'm asking you where you find that authority in the Constitution."

Romney responded: "Where do I find it in the Constitution? Are you familiar with the Massachusetts Constitution? I am. And the Massachusetts Constitution allows states, for instance, to say that our kids have to go to school. It has that power. The question is: Is that a good idea or bad idea?"

Note that Romney did not directly say: The Massachusetts Constitution authorizes the government to force people to buy health insurance or any other good or service. He defended forcing adults to buy health insurance by saying Massachusetts can constitutionally force children to go to school.

Supposing it is true that the Massachusetts Constitution authorizes the state government to force children to go to school, how is that relevant to the question of whether it authorizes the state to force adults to purchase health insurance? Is telling a 13-year-old girl she must attend the eighth grade the same as telling a 32-year-old woman she must buy health insurance? Are both covered by the same provision in the Massachusetts Constitution? If so, what is that provision?

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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