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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Justice Roberts and Obamacare

A while back I wrote ("The Question Before the Court: Constitutionality not Morality") that when considering a case, the U.S. Supreme Court task is not supposed to decide the morality of a particular law, just whether it is constitutional or not. And while a lot of people seem to assume that the two (i.e., morality and constitutionality) go hand in hand, in reality they do not ("Morality vs. Constitutionality").

Chief Justice Roberts seems to be reflecting this view when we wrote in his recent opinion to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare:
We (i.e., the Supreme Court) do not consider whether the act embodied sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions... In this case we must again determine whether the Constitution grants Congress powers it now asserts, but which many States and individuals believe it does not possess. Resolving this controversy requires us to examine both the limits of the Government's power, and our own limited role in policing those boundaries.
No doubt Roberts's reasoning will be (and has been) greeted with glee by liberals and consternation by conservatives, but in most cases probably for the wrong reasons. I'm fairly certain that Roberts didn't vote to uphold the PPACA because he thinks its a good idea. In fact, he probably doesn't. Rather he voted to uphold it because he thinks its constitutional. Whether we like it or not, there is a difference.

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