Has the Supreme Court eroded freedom?

The power of our highest court occupies center stage in “The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom” by Robert A. Levy and William Mellor, now out in paperback. Levy, chairman of the Cato Institute, and Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, worry that the Supreme Court has led the country away from a vision of the Constitution established by the Founding Fathers.

Robert A. Levy
Washington Post
January 12, 2010

How did we get from the Founders’ Constitution, which established strictly limited government, to our contemporary Constitution, which has expanded government and curtailed individual rights? Much of the damage can be traced to a handful of post-New Deal Supreme Court cases that changed the course of American history, with adverse effect on many of today’s key policy debates.

Here are just a few of the issues:

Mandatory Health Insurance
A 1942 case, Wickard v. Filburn, paved the way for the noxious notion that Congress, under the guise of regulating interstate commerce, can punish the failure to purchase a product — health insurance — for which there is no legal interstate market. Of course, if Congress can mandate the purchase of health insurance, why not the purchase of exercise equipment or a new fuel-efficient car? The individual mandate would extend the dominion of the federal government to virtually all manner of human conduct — including non-conduct — by establishing a police power that is nowhere authorized in the Constitution.

Home Foreclosures
“No State shall … pass any … Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts,” states the Constitution. Clear enough? Not in Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934). The Supreme Court upheld a Minnesota statute that — see if this sounds familiar — postponed mortgage payments for financially troubled homeowners. Never mind the contract. We’re now seeing a replay as creditors are forced to waive foreclosure on sub-prime mortgages, even if there was no fraud in the bargaining process.

The article continues at the Washington Post.

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