For over the two years, the very intelligent and clever professors at Balkinization have been doing a great job up trying to come up with legal arguments in support of the health control law. Even people who were not persuaded by the arguments can see how they have contributed to the debate. The first item I wrote on the health control law was back on March 22, 2010, responding to an article by Jack Balkin in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding the tax power. (Incidentally, this may make me the second VC writer–very distantly second after Randy himself–to state in writing that the health control law is unconstitutional under modern law, not just under original meaning. )
My Independence Institute colleague Rob Natelson (U. Montana law school) first wrote on the constitutionality of the health control law on Jan. 23, 2010, responding to a Los Angeles Times essay by Akhil Amar, who also writes for Balkinization. (Making Natelson the 1st full-time law professor to write something on Barnett’s side of the issue.)
I think that the VC and Balkinization have jointly helped to elevate the constitutional analysis by the courts and by the public, especially when VC and Bk have engaged and addressed each other’s arguments. Both VC and Bk kept right on going last week, with plenty of arguments for the Court made during the period between the end of oral argument on Wednesday and the Court’s conference on Friday.
In the health control law debate, VC and Balkinization have each had one outlier. At VC, our outlier was Orin Kerr, who remains unconvinced by the arguments developed by Randy et al. Orin’s public questions and challenges have helped spur the health control skeptics to refine their arguments, and to state them more precisely and clearly.
Balkinization has a different kind of outlier. Andy Koppelman has spent two years penning variations of his thesis: “Everyone who doesn’t agree with me is stupid.”
As noted below by Randy, Koppleman’s latest essay explores the implications of his certitude that “the silliness of the constitutional arguments against the mandate is apparent to any competent lawyer who assesses them in good faith.” Because every competent lawyer knows that Koppelman is right, how could anyone, including Supreme Court Justices, purport to disagree?
There could be only two possible explanations for such a frivolous opinion: (1) a naked assertion of raw power by politicized right-wing justices contemptuous of democratic processes, or (2) a sort of mass hallucination induced by the inane rantings produced by the echo chamber of the right-wing blogosphere.
Thus, says Koppelman, everyone, including lower federal courts, should “nullify” a Supreme Court decision holding the health control law unconstitutional.
I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide whether the Supreme Court saying that Congress can’t force people to buy overpriced products from the Big Insurance oligopoly merits the same sort of response that Kentucky offered to a congressional statute which (as actually enforced) outlawed criticism of the President, or which Wisconsin offered to a federal statute purporting to conscript Wisconsin citizens into enforcement of the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
But I will say this, from an organizational behavior perspective. An organization whose task involves persuasive communications can sometimes be strengthened if there is one person in the organization who can thoughtfully say “Here’s why I think the rest of you may be wrong, and here are what I see to be the weaknesses in your argument.” In contrast, an organization will not improve its persuasive effectiveness if the organization pays any attention to a fanatical member who insists, “No, the people on the other side aren’t just wrong. They MAD I tell you! MAD! They live in an echo chamber, and can’t even consider contrary ideas. Isn’t that obviously CRAZY!!?”
For my own exchanges with Professor Koppelman, see Bad News for Professor Koppelman: The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate, 121 Yale Law Journal Online 267 (2011), and Bad News for John Marshall, 121 Yale Law Journal Online 529 (2012), both of which were co-authored BU’s Gary Lawson. A shorter version of the Lawson/Kopel thesis on the Necessary and Proper clause is available at The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate, Legal Workshop. Feb. 6, 2012.
[Epilogue: April Fool’s. On me. Larry Solum of Legal Theory occasionally posts abstracts of “articles” by famous professors which are actually Solum-written parodies that take the professor’s approach and push it just one more, somewhat plausible, step into absurdity. In real life, Koppelman does accuse critics of the health control law of acting “in the spirit of a saboteur in wartime,” and he did characterize the Lawson/Kopel argument for obeying the original meaning of the Necessary and Proper clause, as expounded in McCulloch, as “insane.” But he never called for nullifying a Supreme Court decision; and while he has always said that there are no non-“silly” arguments against the health control law, he has never posited mass insanity as an alternative explanation to his theory that the only way for the health control law to be ruled unconstitutional would be political bias by the judges. And congratulations to Larry Solum, who is never insane, always brilliant, and sometimes silly.]