How could members of the Supreme Court possibly seriously consider the argument that ObamaCare’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance is unprecedented and unconstitutional? The quality of the arguments? The presence of a genuine legal debate? No, if you ask the law’s liberal cheerleaders, there can only be one answer: pure partisan politics. …
After this week’s arguments concluded, Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker who had predicted that the law would easily secure Supreme Court approval, declared that “the last three days were a disaster for the Obama administration.” Some were downright distraught: Lithwick warned that Supreme Court’s skepticism that Congress might not be able to compel individuals to purchase a private product constituted a “dark vision of freedom.” An even bigger surprise was that Solicitor General Donal Verrilli, who argued the case in front of the Supreme Court, seemed unprepared for the tough questioning from the justices.
What can explain liberals’ widespread failure to anticipate the Court’s wariness of the mandate? Research conducted by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests one possible answer: Liberals just aren’t as good as conservatives and libertarians at understanding how their opponents think. Haidt helped conduct research that asked respondents to fill out questionnaires about political narratives—first responding based on their own beliefs, but then responding as if trying to mimic the beliefs of their political opponents. “The results,” he writes in the May issue of Reason, “were clear and consistent.” Moderates and conservatives were the most able to think like their liberal political opponents. “Liberals,” he reports, “were the least accurate, especially those who describe themselves as ‘very liberal.’”
Liberals, on the other hand, have a different theory. The Court is just a bunch of partisan hacks who’ve bought into the most extreme ideas of the Republican base. Lithwick has argued that despite the law’s self-evident constitutionality, the decision has “everything to do with optics, politics, and public opinion.” Harvard law professor and former Solicitor General Charles Fried, who signed an amicus brief arguing in favor of the law, huffed that “the whole thing is just a canard that’s been invented by the tea party and [anti-mandate legal architect] Randy Barnetts of the world, and I was astonished to hear it coming out of the mouths of the people on that bench.”
The liberal position on the Court seems to be that as long as it accepts their arguments, it’s an independent legal arbiter. But whenever it doesn’t, it’s a partisan political enforcer. The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn makes this explicit, arguing that it isn’t just the health law that’s on trial, but “the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”
Much more interesting as I’m reading Bastiat’s The Law right now.
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?
If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.
It’s fascinating that classical liberalism and modern liberals are virtually polar opposites.