The Supreme Court’s ruling on “the Affordable Health Care Act”—i.e. “Obamacare”—has everyone a buzz.
Here are some of my own thoughts:
First, practically speaking, the decision was a victory for the President and his fellow partisans in that Obamacare, however exactly it is implemented, can now be implemented. Still, although this is widely being regarded by Democrats and Republicans alike as legal victory for the former, this piece of conventional wisdom, not unlike virtually all such species, invites further consideration.
This leads me to my second point: Obamacare, as it was originally designed, was indeed declared unconstitutional. Its opponents were vindicated yesterday as SCOTUS asserted that under the commerce clause, where its architects placed it, the infamous “mandate” is illegal.
Third, politically speaking, SCOTUS placed Obama and his ilk at a decided disadvantage when it stated that the so-called “mandate” accords with the Constitution as long as it functions as a tax.
For most of the history of Western philosophy, it was almost unanimously held that the identity of any individual—whether a person or any other entity—derives from its “final cause”—i.e. its end, purpose, or function. In varying degrees, this understanding of identity continues to figure today. Thus, in identifying the mandate as a tax, it is not a stretch to conclude that the Supreme Court made of Obamacare a new thing.
More exactly, they transformed it into a tax unprecedented in both kind and size. Obamacare is the largest tax increase in American history, and it taxes all citizens for what they do not purchase.
Obama once said that he “absolutely” rejected the proposition that his mandate was a tax.
Now, the Supreme Court has left him no option but to swallow his words. This cannot bode well for him in November.
Fourth, that Obamacare is now proclaimed “constitutional” is not likely to change anyone’s mind about it between now and Election Day. Just because something is constitutional, or is declared constitutional, does not mean that it is a good idea. And that the despised “mandate” is now said by that same Court to be a tax is more likely than not to render it even more detestable in the eyes of the majority of Americans who want it repealed.
In other words, far from boosting Obama’s credibility, the Supreme Court generally, and the enigmatic Justice Roberts specifically, just invigorated Mitt Romney’s campaign in a way that few other things could at the moment.
Finally, even if Obama and the Democrats are reelected, and even though this Supreme Court held Obamacare to be constitutional, this should change nothing as far as the Sons and Daughters of the Patriots of ’76 are concerned.
As I have argued time and time again, the sooner we stop thinking of liberty as a “self-evident,” universal abstraction, the better. Liberty is the birthright of every American, a culturally particular affection bequeathed to us from those generations of Americans who first settled and later “founded” the country. It is a prize for the sake of which they were willing to die—and kill.
America is rooted—not in some timeless proposition—but in blood soaked secession. Our Fathers sought to secede peacefully from the Mother Country. When the English government—not remotely as intrusive or oppressive, mind you, as anything that we have ever seen in our own government, to say nothing of the Obama administration—refused to let that happen, the colonists took up arms and defeated the most expansive and powerful of empires that the world had ever known up to that juncture in history.
Listen to “conservative” talk radio or read mainstream “conservative” pundits in light of last week’s Supreme Court ruling. These are supposed to be our contemporary “Patrick Henrys,” our most vocal advocates of liberty. However, in spite of the lip service that they routinely pay to “the Founders” and “the Constitution,” could any of them genuinely be mistaken for the offspring of the first “Tea Partiers?”
As we consider what to do next respecting Obamacare, I suggest we familiarize ourselves with Captain Levi Preston. In his voluminous Liberty and Freedom, David Hackett Fischer recapitulates an exchange that transpired in 1843 between Preston, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and the scholar Mellen Chamberlain. The response of the 91 year-old to the latter’s inquiry as to why he fought years earlier at Concord was revealing.
“Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?” Chamberlain asked.
“I never saw any stamps,”Preston replied, “and I always understood that none were ever sold.”
“Well, what about the tea tax?”
“Tea tax?” Preston asked incredulously. “I never drank a drop of the stuff. The boys threw it all overboard.”
Oh, Chamberlain concluded, so “I suppose you had been reading [James] Harrington, [Algernon] Sidney, and [John] Locke about the eternal principles of liberty?”
“I never heard of these men,”Preston retorted. “The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism,Watts’ Psalms, and hymns and the almanacs.”
Chamberlain gave up. “Well, then, what was the matter?”
Preston was to the point: “Young man, what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be free always. They didn’t mean we should.”