The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

More thoughts on the Supreme Court decision on "Obamacare"

Some time ago the thought occurred to me that, while the individual mandate seemed to be unconstitutional, they could have accomplished essentially the same thing by levying a tax (using Congress's power to “lay and collect taxes” under Art. I, Sect. 8, Clause 1) and providing a refund to those people who bought health insurance. Since I didn't want to give anyone any ideas, I didn't mention this on my blog. Yet, obviously, Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion seems to mean that the Court decided that, in effect, that was what the act essentially did. At first I thought that it was strange to use this Art. I, Sect. 8, Clause 1 power to “lay and collect taxes” because it had not been invoked by anyone defending the act. But in fact, I was wrong in thinking that it had not been invoked. During the oral arguments, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. was rather equivocal as to whether the penalty for not carrying insurance was a tax.

“General Verrilli, today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax,” Justice Samuel Alito said.

Verrilli said Monday’s argument dealt with the meaning of the word in the context of the 19th century law, the Anti-Injunction Act. Tuesday’s session will explore Congress’ power to impose the insurance requirement and penalty. In that setting, he said, Congress has the authority under the Constitution “to lay and collect taxes,” including the penalty for not having insurance.

Still, he had trouble keeping his terms straight. Answering a question from Kagan, Verrilli said, “If they pay the tax, then they are in compliance with the law.”

Justice Stephen Breyer jumped in: “Why do you keep saying tax?” Breyer reminded Verrilli he should be saying penalty.

“Right. That’s right,” Verrilli said.


So the “lay and collect taxes” argument was used in oral arguments; it simply was not Verrilli's primary justification for the law. And this might have been more relevant if I'd known this dialog took place.

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