Stephen Colbert asks The New Yorker’s legal correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin, if the government can make you buy things. The context is the debate over the healthcare mandate.
Toobin is stumped but, after the show, he calls Neal Katyal, who recently stepped down as Solicitor General for the Obama administration. Katyal says yes, government can make you buy things. State government requires us to buy car insurance, for example.
But what about the federal government, Toobin asks? Has the federal government ever forced us to buy a product?
Katyal reminded me about the Militia Act, which President Washington signed in 1792. “It required men to buy a knapsack, a rifle, and gunpowder,” he said. Besides, he went on, “We are all now forced to pay for everyone who goes to the hospital without health insurance. That’s a hidden purchase we are all forced to make. The law, in effect, makes it an open purchase.”