Of course we can force you to buy private health insurance, after all, look at what we did to Roscoe Filburn -- we forced him to sell his wheat or stop growing it!
That's at the core of the government's argument in the Obamacare case today. Just how far into your own personal life can the federal government reach under its constitutional powers to "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes"?
The individual mandate applies to the individual health-insurance market, in which individuals are already basically prohibited from buying across state lines. And the activity the government is "regulating" is the activity of not buying health insurance. So does Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce allow it to ban intrastate non-commerce?
The Obama administration says yes, pointing to the precedent of Wickard v. Filburn. I'll leave to lawyers the arguments over whether Wickard applies. I'll just add that what the government did to Roscoe Filburn was a horrible intrusion on liberty, and if that's okay, then there's almost no sphere of individual liberty where you are free from the federal government's meddling corporatist hands.
The New Deal, in order to stabiliize grain prices, had set quotas for how much farmers could grow. But Filburn wasn't selling his wheat at all. He was making bread to feed his family. According to some accounts, he was also feeding his cows. So the only way he was conceivably affecting interstate commerce was that he wasn't buying bread or cow feed.
Here's the story from the Filburn Foundation:
The Supreme Court ruled that Filburn was wrong, and that the government could tell him how to conduct these, his most private affairs -- growing his own wheat to make his own bread to feed his wife and children.
One thing liberals sometimes get more right than conservatives (and especially libertarians) is that man is a political animal. It's in our nature that we owe something to our fellow man and that we improve through commerce, in a broad understanding of the word.
But the dignity of the individual requires that we balance the demands we make on our neighbors with a respect for a sphere of privacy. When our neighbor is minding his own business, we should, except in extreme cases, leave him to mind his own business as he pleases. The New Dealers didn't believe that. Minding your own business meant not doing business with the people the New Dealers wanted you to do business with.
Think about the implications of that view of the relationship between government and the individual.