Is Socialized Medicine Unconstitutional?

Some liberals have comforted themselves with the idea that if Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional, it may speed the adoption of the liberals’ real goal, socialized medicine, on the theory that “single payer” will then be the only alternative to the status quo. Such thinking is understandable, as it has generally been assumed that whether or not socialized medicine is a good idea, if Congress were to adopt it, it would be constitutional.

But doesn’t that assumption need to be rethought in light of this week’s arguments on Obamacare? If the Supreme Court rules that the federal government cannot force you to buy health insurance, then how will it be plausible to argue that the same government, under the same Commerce Clause, can force you into a government-run health care system; force you to pay for your neighbor’s health care; make you contract with physicians and hospitals exclusively on terms dictated by the government; and, perhaps, make it a crime for you to procure health care for your family outside of the government’s system?

This is what the Commerce Clause actually says:

The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

Where, in that language, is there room to draw a constitutional distinction between Obamacare and the even more extreme policy of socialized medicine? The issue turns, of course, on the reasoning adopted by the Court in striking down Obamacare (assuming that is what happens). But again, what plausible line can the Court draw under the Commerce Clause that says Obamacare is prohibited, but socialized medicine is constitutional?

The more one considers the implications of this week’s arguments, the more likely it appears that the Court’s decision, if it does strike down Obamacare, will be a milestone that sets the United States back on the path to constitutional government.

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