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Walter E. Williams
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Should We Obey All Laws?

Comment

Let's think about whether all acts of Congress deserve our respect and obedience. Suppose Congress enacted a law — and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional — requiring American families to attend church services at least three times a month. Should we obey such a law? Suppose Congress, acting under the Constitution's commerce clause, enacted a law requiring motorists to get eight hours of sleep before driving on interstate highways. Its justification might be that drowsy motorists risk highway accidents and accidents affect interstate commerce. Suppose you were a jury member during the 1850s and a free person were on trial for assisting a runaway slave, in clear violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Would you vote to convict and punish?

A moral person would find each one of those laws either morally repugnant or to be a clear violation of our Constitution. You say, "Williams, you're wrong this time. In 1859, in Ableman v. Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 constitutional." That court decision, as well as some others in our past, makes my case. Moral people can't rely solely on the courts to establish what's right or wrong. Slavery is immoral; therefore, any laws that support slavery are also immoral. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."

Soon, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare, euphemistically titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There is absolutely no constitutional authority for Congress to force any American to enter into a contract to buy any good or service. But if the court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, what should we do?

State governors and legislators ought to summon up the courage of our Founding Fathers in response to the 5th Congress' Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798.

Led by Jefferson and James Madison, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 were drafted where legislatures took the position that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. They said, "Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government ... (and) whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." The 10th Amendment to our Constitution supports that vision: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

In a word, if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, citizens should press their state governors and legislatures to nullify the law. You say, "Williams, the last time states got into this nullification business, it led to a war that cost 600,000 lives." Two things are different this time. First, most Americans are against Obamacare, and secondly, I don't believe that you could find a U.S. soldier who would follow a presidential order to descend on a state to round up or shoot down fellow Americans because they refuse to follow a congressional order to buy health insurance.

Congress has already gone far beyond the powers delegated to it by the Constitution. In Federalist No. 45, Madison explained: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." That vision has been turned on its head; it's the federal government whose powers are numerous and indefinite, and those of the state are now few and defined.

Former slave Frederick Douglass advised: "Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. ... The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM



Comments

6 Comments | Post Comment
If enough citizens get fined and don't pay for Obama Care if it is found constitutional and if people start going to prison for not joining Obama Care the enforcement of the law will become so prohibitively expensive that the government will have to eliminate Obama Care without a need for further citizen action. This kind of massive resistance would doom almost any measure that the federal government tries to ram down the throats of its unwilling citizens. Hopefully it will never come to civil disobedience if the Supreme Court rules wisely.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Uldis Sprogis
Mon May 14, 2012 10:47 AM
It would take the authority of the states to act. Private companies and individuals would be bankrupted by their revolt.
Comment: #2
Posted by: C Moellers
Tue May 15, 2012 6:13 PM
For interesting insight into the what the founding fathers thought of the concept, try this recent article from the New Republic:
If Health Insurance Mandates Are Unconstitutional, Why Did the Founding Fathers Back Them?
tnr.com/article/politics/102620/individual-mandate-history-affordable-care-act
Yes, the actual "founding fathers" had no problem with voting in health care mandates.
.
Why does the GOP run from the 1990's GOP answer to the health care crisis? We have the most expensive health care system in the world, yet we do not get the high level of benefits or results seen in many other western countries, such as France and Germany. (There are several models for reform. The thing that they all have in common is a commitment to covering everybody. Some, such as the system in the UK, don't work well. Others, such as France and Germany work very well. Let's look to the ones that work well.) I am not thrilled with the Obama Care, but it may move us away from the "death panel" problem (Death panels are real - they are just run by the insurance companies) and, more importantly, move us out of the era where people go bankrupt from medical expenses.
.
Before tossing the only comprehensive attempt at reforming health care to pass congress, could we at least be moving to a better idea rather than back to the insurance company profits come first (and second, as well as third) model?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mark
Tue May 15, 2012 11:04 PM
For interesting insight into the what the founding fathers thought of the concept, try this recent article from the New Republic:
If Health Insurance Mandates Are Unconstitutional, Why Did the Founding Fathers Back Them?
tnr.com/article/politics/102620/individual-mandate-history-affordable-care-act
Yes, the actual "founding fathers" had no problem with voting in health care mandates.
.
Why does the GOP run from the 1990's GOP answer to the health care crisis? We have the most expensive health care system in the world, yet we do not get the high level of benefits or results seen in many other western countries. (There are several models for reform. The thing that they all have in common is a commitment to covering everybody. Some, such as the system in the UK, don't work well. Others, such as France and Germany work very well. Let's look to the ones that work well.) I am not thrilled with the Obama Care, but it may move us away from the "death panel" problem (Death panels are real - they are just run by the insurance companies) and, more importantly, move us out of the era where people go bankrupt from medical expenses.
.
Before tossing the only comprehensive attempt at reforming health care to pass congress, could we at least be moving to a better idea rather than back to the insurance company profits come first (and second, as well as third) model?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Mark
Tue May 15, 2012 11:07 PM
It could be argued that there's already a precedent established in most states for mandating, through force of law, that folks buy health insurance: the requirement to buy auto liability insurance. In Texas, you cannot get inspection or registration certificates without proof of liability insurance, and the fine for getting caught without it is something like $400. And, if you are charged twice you could be in danger of losing your driver license.

He also asserts that you couldn't find a soldier who would agree to round up citizens for refusing to buy health insurance. You may not be able to find many soldiers who would do it, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a local cop who WOULD NOT be willing to do this. If their refusal to participate meant losing their job, I think most would simply rationalize that it's the "law", and they are just doing their duty.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mike Schroeder
Wed May 16, 2012 4:40 AM
Nietzche had some interesting thoughts concerning "The STATE". Consider them with an open mind . . .


“THE STATE” . . . the coldest of all MONSTERS


SOMEWHERE there are still peoples and herds, but not with us, my brethren: here there are states.
A state? What is that? Well! open now your ears unto me, for now will I say unto you my word concerning the death of peoples. A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."


It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life. Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them.


Where there is still a people, there the state is not understood, but hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs. This sign I give unto you: every people speaketh its language of good and evil: this its neighbour understandeth not. Its language hath it devised for itself in laws and customs.


But the state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen. False is everything in it; with stolen teeth it biteth, the biting one. False are even its bowels.
Confusion of language of good and evil; this sign I give unto you as the sign of the state. Verily, the will to death, indicateth this sign! Verily, it beckoneth unto the preachers of death!


Many too many are born: for the superfluous ones was the state devised! See just how it enticeth them to it, the many-too-many! How it swalloweth and cheweth and recheweth them!


"On earth there is nothing greater than I: it is I who am the regulating finger of God."- thus roareth the monster. And not only the long-eared and short-sighted fall upon their knees!


Ah! even in your ears, ye great souls, it whispereth its gloomy lies! Ah! it findeth out the rich hearts which willingly lavish themselves! Yea, it findeth you out too, ye conquerors of the old God! Weary ye became of the conflict, and now your weariness serveth the new idol! Heroes and honourable ones, it would fain set up around it, the new idol! Gladly it basketh in the sunshine of good consciences,- the cold monster!


Everything will it give you, if ye worship it, the new idol: thus it purchaseth the lustre of your virtue, and the glance of your proud eyes. It seeketh to allure by means of you, the many-too-many! Yea, a hellish artifice hath here been devised, a death-horse jingling with the trappings of divine honours!


Yea, a dying for many hath here been devised, which glorifieth itself as life: verily, a hearty service unto all preachers of death!


The state, I call it, where all are poison-drinkers, the good and the bad: the state, where all lose themselves, the good and the bad: the state, where the slow suicide of all- is called "life."


Just see these superfluous ones! They steal the works of the inventors and the treasures of the wise. Culture, they call their theft- and everything becometh sickness and trouble unto them!


Just see these superfluous ones! Sick are they always; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper. They devour one another, and cannot even digest themselves.


Just see these superfluous ones! Wealth they acquire and become poorer thereby. Power they seek for, and above all, the lever of power, much money- these impotent ones!


See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus scuffle into the mud and the abyss.
Towards the throne they all strive: it is their madness- as if happiness sat on the throne! Ofttimes sitteth filth on the throne.- and ofttimes also the throne on filth.


Madmen they all seem to me, and clambering apes, and too eager. Badly smelleth their idol to me, the cold monster: badly they all smell to me, these idolaters.


My brethren, will ye suffocate in the fumes of their maws and appetites! Better break the windows and jump into the open air!


Do go out of the way of the bad odour! Withdraw from the idolatry of the superfluous! Do go out of the way of the bad odour! Withdraw from the steam of these human sacrifices!


Open still remaineth the earth for great souls. Empty are still many sites for lone ones and twain ones, around which floateth the odour of tranquil seas.


Open still remaineth a free life for great souls. Verily, he who possesseth little is so much the less possessed: blessed be moderate poverty!


There, where the state ceaseth- there only commenceth the man who is not superfluous: there commenceth the song of the necessary ones, the single and irreplaceable melody.


There, where the state ceaseth- pray look thither, my brethren! Do ye not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the Superman?-


Friedrich Nietzche
(First part. Zarathustra's Prologue. Zarathustra's discourses. 11. XI. The New Idol).
Comment: #6
Posted by: SusansMirror
Wed May 16, 2012 6:58 AM
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