Richard Brand: So How Come They Can Make Me Do This?


Today there is supposed to be a great debate in the Supreme Court of the U.S. over the Affordable Health Care Act. As the debate keeps being reported in the news the major issue is whether or not it is legal for the government to require all citizens to have some form of health care. The energy behind this debate is the opposition to government telling people what they have to do. Most of us do not like to be told what we have to do.

But when I turned 18 I was told I had to go register with my draft board. When I was in college the government routinely was telling every male in the country where and when he would have to participate in the army. There was no court case over the right of the government to tell me when and where I would have to go. Dick Gregory did try to mount a campaign for parents to protest the draft. He claimed that people would have made more noise if the government was coming for their pets.

There were lots of debates in courts when the first income tax was imposed, but now it is the law that everybody has to pay taxes. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but the government has the right to require everybody who makes some money to file their annual income tax form.

President Nixon made headlines when he went to visit in China. It was a major event, because the government had been telling people for years that nobody in the United States could go to China. They still tell us that we cannot travel to Cuba without their special permission.

The government has told us we cannot use lead in paint. The government has told us that we can no longer use DDT to take care of the pests. Drug companies are not allowed to sell us drugs until the government tells us it is safe. Somebody, I think it must have been the government, has told us that we all must drive on the right hand side of the road. I think there is the requirement that all children have to go to school up to the age of 16. Home school is ok but still there must be schooling.

There probably was a court challenge when Social Security was first begun, but Social Security is now a requirement for everybody, unless you make some major effort to exempt yourself. And most people my age are very happy to receive those checks and to be a part of that program.

That the government has the right and power to tell all of us what to do cannot be denied. There will be no end to the fight over how many things and what things the government may use that power for. We had a major civil war over the question of whether or not the Federal government had power of State governments. The government tells us all that we cannot own slaves. The Supreme Court will hear arguments today over the Affordable Health Care Law. They will rule in several months. If the question is whether the Government has the right and power to require all people to participate in this program, then it seems to me that they have no choice but to say that government does have that power. There will continue to be people who will not like the new obligation, but the government does have that power.