Unlike some members of the Supreme Court itself and a number of people recently in attendance there, Collin Garbarino does not think that the current Obamacare case before the Court (King v. Burwell aka Moops v. You cannot be Serious) is a laughing matter.1
Writing at First Things, Mr. Garbarino reminds us that “the case hinges on whether the Obama administration can interpret a preposition “by [the states]" to mean “in [the states].” 2 That is indeed a weighty legal matter, and one exacerbated, according to Garbarino, by the fact that “Americans don’t trust Congress to pass thoughtful, well-crafted laws. We also don’t trust Congress to fix poorly worded laws after problems become apparent.”
This dire situation reminds Mr. Garbarino, as it would any informed reader, “of where the Roman Republic found itself in the first century BC.” Up the Tiber without a paddle, that’s where the Republic found itself:
The Senate couldn’t rule so the people looked to strongmen to lead them. The succession of strongmen and their civil wars eventually gave rise to the Roman imperial system. During the first hundred years or so, this new system looked just like the old Republic, but Rome had a guy named Caesar making sure that the institutions of government ran smoothly. If a law turned out to contain problems or unforeseen consequences, Caesar could fix it.
Now, even though the Roman people began putting all their faith and hope in this one man named Caesar, they didn’t actually notice that their Republic had died until about a hundred years after the fact. All the old institutions were still there.
All of that was why the citizens of ancient Rome couldn’t have nice things, and don’t let snotty historians like Edward Gibbon tell you otherwise.
Now, before you think that Collin Garbarino is going to compare Barack Obama to Caesar, just hold on a second; Mr. Garbarino does no such thing. Instead, he looks back in our history and finds the real villain responsible for our Rome-like downfall:
Our Republic is dead—it has been dead a long time. And like the ancient Romans, we’re just starting to notice. In my estimation, the American Republic died one hundred and fifty years ago during the Civil War when Lincoln established the IRS. Out of the ashes of our Republic rose the American Bureaucracy, which shepherded us through the process of becoming a superpower.
Yes, that scoundrel Lincoln created a federal Internal Revenue department in 1862, and also enacted (with Congress) an income tax (repealed ten years later) to pay for his precious Civil War.3 And thanks to the tyrannical process which Old Abe got rolling, “The typical American—and, indeed, Congress—views the president as having the powers of a monarch. The president himself knows that he has the powers of a monarch. It seems that the only people in America who aren’t convinced of the president’s status as our elected king are four, maybe five, justices on the Supreme Court.” 4
Yawn: Americans have been bemoaning presidents’ monarchical tendencies since the days of John Adams; so, as the kids say, whatever.5
Collin Garbarino shouldn’t give a fig or a Confederate dollar (“Greyback”) how the Court decides the Moops case, since the Republic of his dreams perished, lo, a century and a half ago. I have no more use for American empire, or for the imperial presidency, than does Mr. Garbarino; but if imposing affordable health care on the nation is the most monarchical thing our president does, I’m prepared to live with it.
2 Though Mr. Garbarino doesn’t see fit to mention it, it’s the case that both the extended text of the law in question (the Affordable Care Act) and the well-documented record of its drafting, its debating, and its passage make clear that the authors of the law did indeed intend the relevant passage to mean “in the states”.
3 What a quaint notion that was: if a country is going to fight a war, citizens ought to pay for it! Some scholars believe that the War itself was just a pretext drummed up by Abe, whose real goal was the establishment of the IRS and the imposition of “tax slavery”: Sic semper vectigales! (“Thus always to taxation!” or as close a translation as I could find.)
4 And, of course, Collin Garbarino.
5 Even Ronald Reagan was thus charged, by songwriter and founding Eagle Don Henley:
O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
(from “The End of the Innocence”)