Libertarian History/Philosophy

CQ Profiles Libertarian Legal Scholar and ObamaCare Foe Randy Barnett


CQ offers a nice profile of Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett, one of the leading figures in the libertarian legal movement and a key architect of the legal case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

"If Congress can mandate this, then it can mandate anything," read a Heritage Foundation paper [Barnett] co-wrote, published in December 2009 during the House debate over the proposed law. By that reasoning, "Congress could require every American to buy a new Chevy Impala every year, or pay a 'tax' equivalent to its Blue Book value, because such purchases would stimulate commerce and help repay government loans."

Most constitutional scholars dismissed such arguments as far-fetched, but Barnett's reasoning was soon adopted by many Republican lawmakers and other critics of the law, leading The New York Times to describe him as the "intellectual godfather" of the argument that the health care law is unconstitutional. That moniker is a bit of a stretch. Other lawyers such as David Rivkin and Lee Casey had made similar arguments on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post before Barnett did.

But Barnett undeniably deserves credit as an early advocate for the legal theories later incorporated into the many court challenges filed as soon as the law was enacted in March 2010.

Read the whole profile here. Read Barnett's contributions to Reason right here.