27 April 2012

Health care mandates and the Founding Fathers

From an essay in The New Republic:
In making the legal case against Obamacare’s individual mandate, challengers have argued that the framers of our Constitution would certainly have found such a measure to be unconstitutional. Never mind that nothing in the text or history of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause indicates that Congress cannot mandate commercial purchases...

The founding fathers, it turns out, passed several mandates of their own. In 1790, the very first Congress—which incidentally included 20 framers—passed a law that included a mandate: namely, a requirement that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. This law was then signed by another framer: President George Washington...

That’s not all. In 1792, a Congress with 17 framers passed another statute that required all able-bodied men to buy firearms. Yes, we used to have not only a right to bear arms, but a federal duty to buy them. Four framers voted against this bill, but the others did not, and it was also signed by Washington. Some tried to repeal this gun purchase mandate on the grounds it was too onerous, but only one framer voted to repeal it.
More at the link, although I think I've seen discussion elsewhere that the latter mandate was for all able-bodied men to have firearms, not necessarily to buy them.


  1. I did some research on this a couple weeks ago and found the actual laws passed.

    1790: Section 8 at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=257
    1792's Militia act: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=394
    1798 (at the bottom of the page): http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=728

  2. I don't understand the obsession with what the 'Founding Fathers' thought. What they thought is interesting for historical reasons, but shouldn't necessarily govern how our country works now. If strict constitutional preservationists had been in charge the last couple hundred years, there'd have been no amendments. And without those amendments, we wouldn't have the Bill of Rights, women couldn't vote, and we'd still have legal slavery. Is that really what people want? Then again, we also wouldn't have federal taxes...

  3. This sums up the precedent for me:

    The 1942 ruling in Wickard v. Filburn held that the federal government could determine how much wheat Filburn grew, and make him pay a penalty for bushels over that amount, even though the wheat was for his personal use. His wheat production could be regulated “if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce,” Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote. The court found that it did.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...