Human Events Blog

6th Circuit Says Congress Can Make You Buy Stuff

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling in favor of ObamaCare’s individual mandate today.  The Hill sets out the stakes:

“The plaintiff in the case, Thomas More Law Center, had argued that the mandate compels economic activity, rather than simply regulating it, and is therefore unconstitutional. The Justice Department argued that the provision does not require people to consume healthcare services — which almost everyone will — but rather governs how they pay for it.”

These decisions, both for and against ObamaCare, are warm-up acts on the way to the main event at the Supreme Court, but the Supremes will likely refer to them during its own ruling.  One aspect of the 6th Circuit’s ruling is particularly noteworthy, and might be rearing its head again later.

Addressing the issue of compelling the purchase of a product, rather than regulating any sort of voluntary inter-state commerce, the 6th Circuit decision says:

“The activity of foregoing health insurance and attempting to cover the cost of health care needs by self-insuring is no less economic than the activity of purchasing an insurance plan.  Thus, the financing of health care services, and specifically the practice of self-insuring, is economic activity.”

Behold the birth of the Inevitability Doctrine, in which Congress gains the power to regulate, micro-manage, and even nationalize any activity that people were going to engage in anyway.  You will either buy health insurance, pay for your own health care, or throw yourself at the mercy of the hospital as a welfare case… but one way or the other, you’ll inevitably consume some sort of health care services, so there really is no “inactivity” possible.  It is, therefore, impossible to “refuse” to purchase health insurance, so ObamaCare isn’t really forcing you to purchase something.  Instead, it is regulating an activity that you cannot possibly exclude yourself from.

That seems like an awfully large can of worms to open.  There are all sorts of things people “inevitably” do, such as purchase food.  Couldn’t Congress nationalize all food production and distribution under this doctrine, since you have no choice but to eat?

Is it even logically true that everyone must engage in economic activity related to health care?  Don’t some people go through their lives without purchasing any?  What about the Amish?  Granted that most people probably will pay for medical services at some point during their adult lives, but there are exceptions.

Hey, let’s try modifying that 6th Circuit decision a little, and see what we get!

“The activity of foregoing self-defense and attempting to cover the cost of personal protection needs by relying entirely upon the police is no less economic than the activity of purchasing a firearm.  Thus, the distribution of guns, and specifically the practice of refusing to purchase a firearm for self-defense, is economic activity.”

Presto: mandatory gun ownership!  Sweet!  It’s about time Congress acted to reduce the huge amount of money states are obliged to spend on detectives, paramedics, and morgue technicians by compelling every American to buy a firearm and obtain training in self-defense.

I don’t suppose it would be long before the Inevitability Doctrine was stretched to cover things that a sizable majority of people would probably purchase, rather than a few specific things that nearly everyone will almost certainly buy… especially if the government can make the case that it incurs significant costs because some people refuse to do so.  Fitness and nutrition products, for example. 

Maybe even personal transportation, if the limits are extended enough.  After all, as President Obama has made abundantly clear, mass transportation is extremely expensive.  Forcing able drivers to purchase highly efficient personal vehicles would reduce the need for building pricey new high-speed rail lines.  Conversely, restricting the purchase of dirty, greenhouse-gas-spewing, fossil-fuel-consuming automobiles in areas with under-utilized mass transportation networks would help the government achieve greater return on its investments, and further its environmental agenda.  Almost everyone inevitably travels, after all… and it’s going to cost Uncle Sam a lot of money for sandbags along both coasts when the polar ice caps melt!

The score is currently four court decisions in favor of the ObamaCare mandate, and two against.  Assuming the ObamaCare nightmare drags itself all the way to the Supreme Court, leaving billions in raised cost and millions of lost jobs strewn in its wake, it should be a fascinating case.  


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