A judge in Virginia has ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. The press has jumped on this as if monkeys have flown out of the president’s butt. Nevermind the other courts which found the law constitutional. Nevermind the actual basis for the ruling, the press and some rightwing bloggers (Radley Balko, Megan McArdle) have found this to be a great triumph of liberty. In reality the court’s ruling has nothing to do with liberty. It has to do with Federalism. The federal government can’t force people to buy insurance not because government can’t force people to buy insurance but because the Constitution gives the federal government certain powers and this isn’t one of them. All other powers are left to the states and the people. Of course whichever state that you live in could force you to buy health insurance. Massachusetts already does. The federal government could also require states to make people purchase health insurance or refuse to give the states money. This is why every state in the union has a drinking age of 21. This is in spite of the fact that the Constitution after prohibition specifically gives states the sole power to regulate alcohol.
Arguments about federalism do not make any sense to me. What difference does it make if the state government is screwing you or if the federal government is screwing you? I see no point to the multiple levels of government that exist now. In reality we have states because of the land grants of the king of England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Those states wanted to retain their sovereignty which gives us the multiple sovereignties that exist now. Throw in local and municipal governments and their is waste and redundancy all over the place. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are all kinds of little townships with their own police and mayors and alderman and what not. It makes no sense.
The Civil War conclusively settled the point of state’s rights. State’s have no ability to secede from the union. This goes against the principle of government deriving from the consent of the governed but gave the nation an actual national identity and set the stage for the innovation and greatness to come in this country. Now, 150 years later, it is time to eliminate the concept of states altogether. With planes, phones, and the internet the ability of people to travel and communicate across great distances eliminates all practical reasons for states. A central government can run the spread out nation. There is no valid reason that a lawyer needs to be licensed in multiple states. There is no valid reason that some states have gay marriage and others don’t. There is no reason that some laws have comparative negligence while others stick with contributory. There is no reason that some states are community property while in a divorce in other states there is equitable distribution. A chemistry student in a high school in Montana needs to know the same as a chemistry student in Texas and New York.
States are an anachronism. Look at the borders of the eastern states. Most follow rivers. On the other hand most western states have very straight lines. Why? Because they are a fiction. The borders are meaningless. The best examples of reasons to eliminate states are based on the cities that do not conform to such simple ideas. New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Washington and Saint Louis are major cities whose metro areas span multiple states. Some places have formed compacts or other organizations to deal with these realities and connected issues, but an elimination of the states would be much more helpful. New Jersey has recently pulled funding that would allow for another rail tunnel into Manhattan. In a world without states this would not be possible.
Obviously, this is a pipe dream. It would take a new Constitution and we all know that we can’t have that, even if the people who wrote the Constitution would call us all witches for having iPhones. Call me a radical but sometimes I want a better answer to why we do something than that’s the way it’s always been done.