Commerce Clause: The Snake Eats Its Tail

The suit filed by 26 states against the health care bill has been endorsed by a federal appeals court, which struck down the individual mandate: in other words, the government can’t force you to purchase something.

The argument of the administration is that health care is special: the individual’s refusal to purchase health insurance can be regulated by the government because that economic inaction effects other consumers.  Pah.  Yes, but only because of the structure of the bill in question.  Of course, one’s refusal to purchase insurance (even without the bill) effects everyone, but in EXACTLY the same way as your refusal to purchase bread does.  The administration has yet been unable to articulate a rational grounds on which to differentiate health decisions from any other decisions.

This brings us to an interesting contradiction in left philosophy: if we are being honest, health care is only different because it is a “moral” decision.  But the entire critical framework of left politics is that morality is a fundamentally subjective category: it is on these same grounds that all sorts of policy decisions (from the Iraq War to tax cuts) are attacked.

And yet, in this particular case, citizens are asked to collectively concede that the “right” to health care is an ontological a priori: we are implored to grant the moral necessity of the bill on its face.  How many issues does the right try to argue by appealing to “a priori” moral grounds?  Gay marriage is one of about 100 examples.  But these positions are laughed away: after all, who is so old-fashioned to say that one thing is better than another?

Despite the belly-aching of the left, they have run the table philosophically (if not electorally) since about 1967. Another way of saying this is that they won the cultural battle even if they lost the democratic one.  However, as Nietzsche shows (despite his continuing reappropriation by the academic Left) a philosophy of negation always doubles back on itself.

Perhaps health care is the first of what must be many moments to reorient American policy: perhaps it is the most visible dramatization of the moment at which the left is called to account for its equivocations.  How does one demonstrate an ethical a priori when the only a priori is the subjective ontology of ethics?  Impossible. An imaginary feat for an imaginary philosophy.

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