What a difference a few hundred years makes. Throughout most of American history, barriers to commerce were imposed at the state level. States would engage in protectionism by imposing tariffs on other states goods, thereby restricting trade opportunities between the states. In the Constitution, the framers give Congress the power to promote commerce between the states by lifting any restrictions placed upon it. Now, Congress itself creates legislation that hinders commerce. Take, for example, the health insurance market. Under the McCarran–Ferguson Act of 1945, Congress has ceded the regulation of health insurance almost exclusively to the states and thereby prevented interstate health care markets. There are over 1,200 health insurance companies in the United States, but no common market where citizens of one state can purchase a health insurance plan from another state. And we’ve seen how well the health insurance market runs.
Wouldn’t it be great if other markets worked like that of health insurance? Congress thinks so, because they are considering similar legislation for alcohol.
A recently introduced bill, the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (Care) Act, would cede Congressional authority to the states to regulate alcohol. The Care Act purports to give states and communities more authority to regulate alcohol, but, in actuality, it enables state protectionism. States would be able to prevent out-of-state wine producers from selling directly to consumers around the country. The Care Act would strip alcohol businesses of their Commerce Clause protections and eliminate their ability to sue states in federal court.
How many years until state protectionism causes the price of alcohol to sky-rocket, prompting Congress to pass a legislative over-haul akin to Obamacare? Will the next individual mandate require citizens to buy cabernet sauvignon or risk a fine?
The Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to promote commerce, by lifting artificial barriers to competition and economic freedom. When Congress promotes commerce, economic freedom and markets flourish and the nation prospers. When Congress shirks its duty and creates barriers to free trade among the states, the resulting markets resemble those of health insurance.