June 28, 2012

Thomas Jefferson vs. Justice Roberts

Congress are not to lay taxes ad libitum, for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts, or provide for the welfare, of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do any thing they please, to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.

To consider the latter phrase, not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they pleased. -- Thomas Jefferson 1791

2 comments:

Boffin said...

Taking a 100-mile-high picture, I think Roberts, like Rehnquist before him, wants to keep the Court from being the fix for stupid, counterproductive, or harmful legislation. The responsibility for sound lawmaking resides squarely inthe congress.

Using the "tax" argument to affirm the law indicated that the court will use whatever method it can to avoid over-ruling congress. The opinion hinted as much as it stated that the commerce clause was insufficient to justify the individual mandate.

If the Court were to study the benefits and utility of laws it would become a legislative body, and become completely political, far more than it is now. While I'm not particularly happy with the decision, I think it's the best to keep legislative power in the congress where we have at least a chance of changing things.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that SCOTUS is the only check there is against Congress ignoring the Constitution. And as we've repeatedly seen, it's mostly no check at all.

If the Constitution had teeth, such that any attempted violation by Congress would result in loss of office and prison terms for those involved, we'd see very few assaults on our rights.