You can usually identify a weak argument by seeing how many orders of magnitude someone must leave “normal” to make their case. For example, if I were to miss work and justify my absence with “my car would not start,” people would most likely give me the benefit of the doubt. The “car wouldn’t start” story is a pretty common occurrence and isn’t very difficult to believe. Now suppose I were to miss work and say, “I didn’t come in yesterday because I was abducted by aliens and they ran tests on me until 8pm last night.” That excuse is many orders of magnitude adrift from normal and much more difficult to believe. In order to convince people that my aliens story was actually true, I’d have to present some incredibly convincing evidence – and tons of it. (The marks on my body from the tests would be a good place to start).
Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m attempting to make the point that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Yale professor Jack Balkin, in his attempt at justifying ObamaCare’s constitutionality, argues that the word “commerce” means much more than simply trade between people. In fact, in Professor Balkin’s world, there is no end to what the word commerce can mean, and therefore, “commerce” can mean “not commerce.” When commerce means not commerce, Americans can be punished for not engaging in commerce according to the powers granted in the Commerce Clause. Now if it were me, I’d demand to see some extraordinary evidence that a word can mean both its thesis and antithesis simultaneously.
Luckily for us at the Independence Institute, we don’t have a Professor Jack Balkin, we have a Professor Rob Natelson. In this iVoices.org podcast, Rob Natelson discusses the historical use of the word “commerce” and what it meant to the founders during the time of ratification. Did they too believe engaging in commerce meant NOT engaging in commerce?
After you listen to Rob explain the meaning of the word commerce, take a look at Rob and Dave Kopel’s response paper to Professor Balkin’s ridiculous assertion that the word commerce means virtually anything and everything.