Mark Steyn writes in National Review Online, Swinging Kennedy,The liberties of more than 300 million people hinge on just one man , 3/31/12. Steyn ponders how we arrived at a point where one of the most controversial pieces of legislation, passed on almost a purely partisan basis, that changes the relationship between the government and the citizens, has come down to the thinking and actions of a single man.
“If the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court,” wrote Abraham Lincoln, “the people will have ceased to be their own rulers.”
A 2,700-page law is not a “law” by any civilized understanding of the term. Law rests on the principle of equality before it. When a bill is 2,700 pages, there’s no equality: Instead, there’s a hierarchy of privilege micro-regulated by an unelected, unaccountable, unconstrained, unknown, and unnumbered bureaucracy. It’s not just that the legislators who legislate it don’t know what’s in it, nor that the citizens on the receiving end can never hope to understand it, but that even the nation’s most eminent judges acknowledge that it is beyond individual human comprehension. A 2,700-page law is, by definition, an affront to self-government.
If the Supreme Court really wished to perform a service, it would declare that henceforth no law can be longer than, say, 27 pages — or, at any rate, no longer than the copy of Playboy Congressman Conyers was reading on that commuter flight.
Steyn nails the bigger problem. Besides the constitutionality of the law, which we will hear about soon enough, there is the more obvious problem that is rarely discussed. The passage of this bill was legislation at its worst. It was poorly designed, poorly written and even more poorly understood. It is inconceivable to any but the most conceited elites that a bill that controls such a broad and complicated segment of our economy could possibly be understood not only as it is written, but more importantly how it will impact the market for our most valuable service.
How can there be any equality before the law if thousands of exemptions are granted to the politically connected? Can there be any greater indictment on the failure of this legislative disaster than from some of the administration’s biggest supporters, who sought and were granted exemptions?
Why must bills be such grand mastodons? Such all-or-nothing reforms encourage partisanship rather than compromise. Why can’t we agree on smaller actions that move us toward commonly shared goals? There were many areas of health care that could have been addressed where there is considerable agreement. In fact some of our better, and more effective bills have been far far shorter and far better focused.
Such complication is the byproduct of incompetence and intentional obfuscation. It is shameful that this bill ever saw the light of day, and it is scary that its future is in the hands of a single justice.