post by Paul Kelleher
Suppose you are a left-leaning health care reporter who wants to see the Affordable Care Act upheld. Perhaps you're Jon Cohn, or Ezra Klein. Or maybe you're a health economist or a health services researcher with a well-read blog. In any case, you want to see the the law upheld by the Supreme Court and you'd love to be the first to break the news about the verdict on your website. Perhaps a scoop like that could do wonders for your career. Or maybe it'd just be the thrill of a lifetime.
Suppose also that you---and you alone---know that in addition to being a highly accomplished jurist, Chief Justice John Roberts is also a great prognosticator. That is, he seems to be able to see the future. You've interviewed him hundreds of times---maybe even thousands---and before every interview, Roberts insists that you play a little game. He asks you to pick a number between 1 and 1000. If he guesses the number correctly, your interview will last 5 minutes only. If he guesses wrong, you get all the time you want and he'll answer every question you ask truthfully and comprehensively. Sadly for you, he has guessed correctly every time, and your untold interviews with him have lasted only 5 minutes each and have all been pretty bland affairs.
So one day in early June, 2012, the Supreme Court's courier delivers an envelope to your office. Inside the envelope is a letter and a second envelope. The letter reads:
Dear [Your name here],
Inside the envelope included with this letter is my majority decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius and Florida v. United States Department of Health and Human Services. As you know, this decision was made very soon after oral arguments ended in March, but the Court is unlikely to announce the ruling until the end of June. However, you are at liberty to open the envelop and break the news now. Just one other thing: Before casting my deciding vote in March, I made a prediction as to what you will do. If I predicted that you would open this envelope and break the news, then I cast my vote against the Affordable Care Act. If I predicted that you would not open this envelop, then I cast my vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act.
So what are you going to do?