Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Free Rider Argument

Neil Siegel of Duke argues at SCOTUSblog that the ACA is legal under the Commerce Clause because that clause exists to fight free rider issues in this nation.

For starters, the main reason the interstate commerce clause was included was to prevent states from charging duties and establishing monopolies, inhibiting trade across state lines. This isn't a free rider issue at all; it was a matter of preventing state interference from messing up the economy.

But even if you ignore that, Siegel's argument is absolutely ridiculous. The free rider problem "arises is when people benefit from collective action regardless of whether they contribute to it." So creating a program in which 30 million people get health care from the government without contributing a dime is fighting free riding? It sounds like expanding free riding to me. Healthy people who do not buy insurance because they choose a healthy lifestyle now must pay in order to cover the costs of those who do not have a healthy lifestyle or pay their own insurance (via their own pocket or from work). Sounds like they are free riding off of the healthy people.

Isn't the entire notion of the welfare state creating more free riders?

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear what limit there really is to Congress' power if this expansion of the Commerce Clause holds up.

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