Poets on the Bench
It's been said that history doesn't repeat itself but that it often rhymes. The Supreme Court, principally Justice Roberts, by finding that the people of the United States have no property rights the government needs respect, rhymes with Chief Justice Taney's majority opinion in Dred Scott that the negro has no rights anyone need respect. All the federal government has to do is call it a tax. Ipso facto, it's constitutional.
But where in the large universe of written record by the founders is there any hint that the people who wrote the Constitution Roberts cites would have considered ordering people to purchase a product a tax? Because there's money involved? A number that can be put to the exaction? A number can be put to the government's order for you to buy a house, or sell it. A number can be put to an order forcing you to buy your child a particular type of college education. Ethnic studies come to mind. A number can be put to an order not to buy a car and walk to public transportation. To order you to buy solar panels from the companies owned by the president's cronies.
You have no property rights under the Roberts ruling.
And if you have no property rights, you have no property -- only what the governments allows you to conditionally occupy or hold. Call it something else, because it's not yours.
And if you don't have that, you have no rights at all.
Nancy Pelosi crows -- an increasingly apt metaphor -- that "we made history." She may be right, but not in any fashion which she or the forever smiling John Roberts understands, because the resonance of the earlier Taney ruling ended only with the Civil War. This new verse on that very old theme may very well in turn overthrow a liberal establishment every bit as entrenched and seemingly permanent as that earlier "Peculiar Institution" which once controlled the score in Washington.
Which, as they were and are both rooted in the very same Democrat Party, only seems just. Indeed, inevitable.
Richard F. Miniter is the author of The Things I Want Most, BDD, Random House. He writes in Stone Ridge New York and can be reached at email@example.com.