State Power

How Gauche: American Yokels Actually Obey Their Own Laws

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Go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

Whether you're looking to feel some jingoistic resentment at continental snobbery, get nostalgic for the Lewinski-scandal days when the cognoscenti's greatest fear was that the sophisticated French might think we were prudes, or just enjoy the tradition of Hollywood Nazis saying things like "You Americans are so naïve," you'll enjoy John Hudson's round up of European shock over the Supreme Court's individual mandate arguments

"The Supreme Court can legitimately return Obamacare?" asks a headline on the French news site 9 POK. The article slowly walks through the legal rationale behind the court's right to wipe away Congress's legislation. "Sans précédent, extraordinaires" reads the article. In the German edition of The Financial Times, Sabine Muscat is astonished at Justice Antonin Scalia's argument that if the government can mandate insurance, it can also require people to eat broccoli. "Absurder Vergleich" reads the article's kicker, which in English translates to, "Absurd Comparison." In trying to defeat the bill, Muscat writes, Scalia is making a "strange analogy [to] vegetables."

I don't get the whole complaint that referring to a broccoli or cell phone mandate is some kind of reductio ad absurdum. The health benefits of eating broccoli are well established and direct. The safety and connectivity benefits of carrying a cell phone are immediate and clear. Mandating either would be more justifiable as necessary and proper to promote the general welfare than mandating buying insurance, whose connection to good health is at best indirect. 

In an event, the greatest absurdities are not coming from the French or the Germans, but from our own cousins in the common law tradition. When the U.K. Telegraph's Mark McKinnon pillories the Supreme Court as "these six men and three women," you can almost feel his pain at not being able to seethe "these nine men in black robes!" And how's this for a deep understanding of the difference between essential rights and government handouts: 

The Guardian's Kevin Powell called the debate "surreal" in his Monday column. "Wasn't the point to make sure the richest and most powerful nation on the planet could protect its own people, as other nations do?" he wrote. "If Americans are promised not just liberty but life and happiness, is there not a constitutional right to affordable healthcare?"

When your own country's national health service is being bankrupted by a sceptred isle full fat slobs, the idea that the individual mandate violates human liberty must seem slightly insulting. But England is the country of the Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution, where William Blake stood up for the right to throw a soldier out of his garden. Has socialism really made the right little tight little island this dumb?