The Supreme Court Should Assess the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act
First, let me say that I have no moral objection to the Affordable Care Act mandate that I purchase health insurance coverage. It’s not my ideal method of ensuring universal healthcare, but it’s one I can and do support for lack of feasible alternatives. However, I am not in the position to opine informatively on the constitutionality of the mandate. It may be constitutional; it may be unconstitutional. I can’t answer that question.
It is a question that needs answering, and I for one am pleased to see the Supreme Court giving the matter their time, attention, and consideration. Frankly, I’m heartened that the separation of powers still seems to exist. This is how our government is supposed to work: the independent branches of government check and balance the power of one another. The courts should give a suspicious and critical eye to even the best of all possible legislation and executive policies. No legislation or policy or court decision should stand infallible, free from any question or challenge.
The purpose of a constitution is to define the powers of government; if you don’t hold to it, then you have no basis for limiting what government can and cannot do. You have no check on tyranny. So let’s say that the mandate is both unconstitutional and ethically just and, given the circumstances, obligatory. What to do? The right course of action, it seems to me, is either to amend the constitution so there’s no question of legal authority or to find an alternative path to universal healthcare that fits within the defined powers of the government.
Whether the mandate is constitutional doesn’t answer whether it’s the right thing to do, and just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t mean the government as constituted has the legal authority to do it. For a just and free society, you need a government that does the right thing and is legally authorized to do the right thing. Without the former, you have an unjust government; without the latter, you have a tyrannical one.