Limiting Principles

This is a repost of something I wrote prior to this blog that a friend recently reminded me of.  This was written in March 2012 when the Supreme Court was deciding on the constitutionality of Obamacare:

There was lots of talk at the Supreme Court today about there needing to be a ‘limiting principle’. Basically, the question is, if the U.S. government can mandate insurance purchases, what’s to prevent them from mandating broccoli purchases?

I don’t get these ‘limiting principle’ arguments at all. Where in the Constitution does it say “You can do x. But not all the time.”? The Constitution IS the limiting principle!. The Enumerated Powers tells us exactly what our Congress can do. As long as the law fits an Enumerated Power and doesn’t violate anything else in the Constitution, it’s fair game.

But, beyond that, there are plenty of limiting principles. The limiting principle is the lack of political will that caused universal healthcare 40+ years to be a reality. The limiting principle is elections that can change laws if they are sufficiently unpopular.

So, yes, Congress can probably mandate that you can buy broccoli under the Commerce Clause. But Congress can also declare war on Canada. Congress can also borrow one trillion dollars. Congress can also print one gazillion dollars. If you think the Enumerated Powers grants Congress too much power, change the Constitution or change your representatives. Because, in this fine Republic, the limiting principle is us.

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