A federal district judge in Pennsylvania has ruled the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the linchpin of the federalization of health insurance plan signed into law by United States President Barak Obama, unconstitutional.
The ruling earlier this month attracted no media coverage outside of the state, even though the liberal media has reported on all other district court rulings. It is possible that the district ruling was overshadowed by the Courts of Appeals rulings against the mandate which will result in judicial review by the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, the ruling was significant because it was in favor of a plaintiff who is a private citizen. Such cases have sometimes been dismissed by other federal district courts for lack of standing because no harm can be demonstrated by the mandate, which has not yet been implemented. The only other cases in which the mandate has been ruled unconstitutional were brought by States of the Union, which successfully argued that the mandate violates states' rights.
In the Pennsylvania case, a citizen argued that he can afford to pay for health care and thus does not need to purchase health insurance. Therefore, the individual mandate does not regulate commerce because no commercial activity would have taken place. The citizen would be harmed by the requirement to enter into a contract with a private party for a service he does not need. I suppose he could have argued that the harm he is currently experiencing is his inability to set aside the money now for another purpose.
The constitutional question around the individual mandate has been narrowly focused on whether a decision not to engage in commerce (i.e. not to purchase health insurance) constitutes commercial activity that may be regulated under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. As I have been posting, however, the broader question of whether the activity, even if considered commercial, constitutes interstate or intrastate commerce, remains not only unanswered, but unasked. Under the Commerce Clause, the United States may regulate only interstate commerce, not intrastate commerce, which health insurance is because federal law prohibits its purchase across state lines.
The failure to raise the issue legally implies a concession of a broad federal power to regulate all commercial activity, under the theory that it affects the economy. Liberals have relied upon the tolerance of the gradual expansion of the power to regulate interstate commerce as a justification for increasingly expanding it to all commerce and are relying upon it now to expand it even further to activity that is not even commercial activity. However, the federal power to regulate interstate commerce was intended not to manage the economies of the States of the Union, but to establish a free market within the Union by prohibiting states from imposing tariffs on goods from other states.
The states are defending liberty by reasserting their constitutional rights. It is also a defense of liberty and the Constitution that the people, such as the plaintiff in this Pennsylvania federal case, reassert their freedom. May we conservatives continue to defend the liberty of all and the Constitution by opposing the individual mandate to purchase health insurance and all unconstitutional federal encroachments on the rights of the states and the people.
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