Here’s a letter to the New York Times:
Declaring that “health insurance is nothing like broccoli,” Paul Krugman ridicules Justice Scalia for asking whether or not, if the Constitution permits Uncle Sam to force us to buy health insurance, that document also permits Uncle Sam to force us to buy broccoli (“Broccoli and Bad Faith,” March 30).
Never mind that Mr. Krugman here implicitly demands that the Court do what all of a sudden horrifies so many “Progressives,” namely, ground its constitutional rulings on detailed analyses of facts and policy. Such analysis would indeed expose several practical differences between commerce in vegetables and commerce in insurance.
Focus instead on Mr. Krugman’s failure to understand that there is indeed a relevant and looming similarity between broccoli and insurance – a similarity that likely sparked Justice Scalia’s question. If my failure to buy health insurance puts upward pressure on health-care costs for other Americans – and thus justifies the government forcing me to buy insurance – doesn’t my failure to eat a healthy diet likewise put upward pressure on health-care costs for other Americans and, thus, justify the government forcing me to buy broccoli? If not, why not?
Given government’s zeal to control ever-more aspects of private life, such questions are not Constitutionally trivial.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030