Tag: akhil amar

The Battle of the Ilyas III: Together against Obamacare

As the number of events I’ve participated in as a result of my challenge to debate “anyone, anywhere, any time” on the constitutionality of Obamacare approaches 50, I find myself in many interesting situations. This past Tuesday was no exception, as George Mason law professor (and Cato adjunct scholar) Ilya Somin and I took on Yale law professor Akhil Amar and NYU law professor Rick Hills in an Oxford-style parliamentary debate organized by the Amherst College Political Union.

This event had a number of interesting subplots: Somin and I have held an annual “Battle of the Ilyas” but now appear on the same stage arguing from the same position; Amar wrote a scathing oped attacking Judge Roger Vinson’s decision in the Florida Obamacare case to which I responded by rewriting to lyrics to “Every Breath You Take”; Hills and Somin were both students of Amar; and, of course, the debate was in Massachusetts, home of the Romneycare state-based individual health insurance mandate.

I think Somin and I acquitted ourselves rather well, especially given that the audience was hardly a sympathetic one. I’ll reserve other comment, however, because you can view video of the debate here:



Postscript: After the debate, Amar and I made a $100 bet that our respective sides would prevail at the Supreme Court.

The Federal Government’s Police Power

Last week, after I responded to Akhil Amar’s op-ed that defended, in an uncharacteristically unthoughtful and ad hominem way, the constitutionality of the individual mandate, a reader suggested that Amar’s argument – particularly that “breathing is an action” that Congress can regulate – reminded him of that Police classic, “Every Breath You Take.”  What’s ironic about this suggestion, perhaps inadvertently, is not only the invocation of “breathing” but that the whole Obamacare battle boils down to competing views of federal power:  Does the government have a general “police” power or is its authority limited to that finite set of powers listed in the Constitution?

And so, without further ado, here’s how the song would look updated for 2011’s favorite constitutional debate (with apologies to Gordon Sumner aka Sting):

Every breath you take
Every move you make, or
Decide not to take
Even when you flake
We’re mandating you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Even if you stay
We’re coercing you

O don’t you fuss
You belong to us
How we regulate every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
We’re mandating you

The Constitution’s lost without a trace
Since ‘37 we go every place
Limits on government you can’t replace
Got rid of those so we’re always in your face
We’re commanding you, no saying please

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
We’re mandating you