Cuccinelli: Even King George Couldn't Tell Us What to Buy
By Hadley Heath
Viriginia AG Ken Cuccinelli spoke at Hilldale College's Kirby Center on Friday. His topic was "Federalism's Last Defense: The Case Against the Health Care Law." He spent most of his time talking about federalism, and significant time explaining his case, Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius (which will go before the Fourth Circuit of Appeals on May 10). I found the following story about the Commerce Clause to be very interesting:
As Cuccinelli pointed out, the case against the federal health care law is a case of "first impression," meaning that there has been no case dealing with an individual mandate to buy something before. No previous Congress or President has attempted to use this power (and therefore, the question arises about whether or not this power is legitimate).
So, in a case of first impression, it is valuable to investigate the beginnings of the Constitutional powers in question. Does the federal government have the power to mandate that we buy something?
Before the United States was the United States, King George III imposed heavy taxation upon the American colonists. To push back against the Stamp Act and the Intolerable Act, colonists boycotted British goods. The king asked his Solicitor General whether or not the colonists were therefore guilty of treason. To this the Solicitor General replied, "The colonists are well-advised, legally. They have come right to the line of treason, but they have not committed it."
(At which point Cuccinelli joked that he hoped the "colonists" were still well-advised, legally, or at least those in Viriginia, because he's their Attorney General)
The point of this story is, of course, that even King George III - the tyrant who committed a laundry list of wrongs against the American colonists - could not force them to buy something. Amazingly enough, today our federal government claims to have this power that even King George III didn't have.
Cuccinelli encouraged Americans to help get our country back on track by quoting Patrick Henry and emphasizing the "frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." It was also Patrick Henry who said, "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
This is a good thought to keep in mind during the court battles over the individual mandate.