Putting aside the fact that Article I Section 8 of the US Constitution does not grant Congress the authority to force individuals to purchase commercial products, the intent of the US Constitution does not support the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If the federal government were meant to directly govern individuals, then the States would have united not as individual States, but as a single national government, and there would be no States today.
There is a difference between a federal government and a national government. In a federal government, individual sovereign States are united for some advantage. In a national government, states are consolidated into a single sovereignty. The United States is the former, a union of individual states that banded together for economic and military advantage.
As designed, the federal government does not govern individual people; the federal government governs individual States. This does not mean that the States became subordinates of the federal government. After all, the federal government is a creation of the States.
The US Constitution defines the nature and limited powers of a federal government – an entity that will provide economic and military unity for the United States, the rules that the individual States must follow as a condition of their membership in this union, a procedure for new States to join the union, and outlines the operational procedures of the federal government.
Efforts to govern individuals from the federal level have had poor results because the Constitution is an operating agreement for the States, not a behavioral guide for individual people. For example, when the federal government sought to prohibit alcohol, the result was black markets and organized crime. Ultimately, this was repealed. Another example would be the income tax. Though still legal, the income tax is widely disliked and criticized for favoring the wealthy and for loopholes. Calls to rewrite the tax code are not uncommon.
The federal government should be made to remember that its genesis is from the States and that its job is to provide economic and military unity, not to govern individuals. The Supreme Court has a chance to do just that by declaring the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional. Let’s hope they rise to the occasion.
Stephen Gnoza is the author of You Can't Do That.