Jonathan B. Wight
I posed the query below to Bart Hinkle, a gifted editorial writer for the Richmond Times Dispatch, who enjoys the foray into ethics and economics.
Query to Bart: The Constitution says Congress shall have the power “To raise and support Armies” – and does not specifically say how to do it. The draft is constitutionally legal, even though it is a form of slavery. How is the “conscription” to buy health insurance different from the “conscription” to serve in the army?
BART: I don't think it is any different. Conscription for any purpose has always struck me as an egregious invasion of individual liberty.
In fact, military conscription was the cover the Supreme Court used to justify many WWII-era economic regulations. In a decision on rent controls, William O. Douglas wrote that
A nation which can demand the lives of its men and women in the waging of . . . war is under no constitutional necessity of providing a system of price control on the domestic front which will assure each landlord a ‘fair return’ on his property.
Likewise, the high court ruled that Washington could renegotiate wartime contracts to eliminate “excess profits” because “in total war it is necessary that a civilian make sacrifices of his property and profits with at least the same fortitude as that with which a drafted soldier makes his traditional sacrifices of comfort, security, and life itself.”
JONATHAN: Thanks, Bart. That’s very helpful. It would imply (to me) that Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli’s lawsuit against forced health insurance is rather frivolous (although you point out in a separate email that it all depends on the judicial landscape when the suit comes up).
Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote that “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Being forced to buy health insurance is equivalent to paying a tax—with the proceeds used to buy insurance. While no one likes to pay taxes, the U.S. is not anywhere near the high marginal tax rates we were in previous decades (does anyone remember the 1970s?). Hence, I don’t think the destruction of liberty is at hand. I could be wrong....