New York Times discusses PLF healthcare suit in questioning court partisanship


Author: Luke A. Wake

Judges are supposed to be above the political fray, but the New York Times suggests that the health care challenges are being decided along partisan lines. Both of the cases upholding the challenged mandate to buy health insurance have been decided by Democrat appointees, and conversely only Republican appointees have allowed such suits to proceed. The Times paints these health care challenges as highly-partisan, and notes that “the plaintiffs and firms challenging aspects of the act… reads like an index of conservative and libertarian interest groups….” The Times mentions Pacific Legal Foundation’s challenge—on behalf of Matt Sissel—as an example of a libertarian crusade against “Obama’s health care law.” 

But, as my colleague Timothy Sandefur says in the article, “this is not a partisan fight… This is a fight about how far the government can reach.” Tim is right. These suits are about the principles of liberty and justice, which our Constitution was meant to protect.

But it’s not entirely surprising that support for, or against, the mandate would–in some respect–fall along ideological lines, because these suits are about how much power our government should be allowed to wield over our lives. Those with more “progressive” political philosophies tend to view the government as a tool for social engineering, and generally support giving the government more power to that end. But, those who think that men are naturally free, and that government exists to protect our liberties, believe that the hands of government should be firmly tied to prevent it from entangling itself in every aspect of our lives. Our Founding Fathers were of the latter view, and indeed they wrote the Constitution explicitly to “secure the blessings of liberty.”

In a free society, government cannot have limitless power. Perhaps P.J. O'Rourke said it best when explaining the concept of limited government: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” We can’t afford to have a government driving drunk with power, so we’re trying to take away the car keys. That's what these suits are about. As our client, Matt Sissel, explains in his Christian Science Monitor Op-Ed, we are fighting to ensure that the Constitution still limits federal power.