Sunday, March 3, 2013

Can the Bill of Rights be voted away?

In our Declaration of Independence (1776), our founders announced that
...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....
A few years later (1787), the founders established a new government to protect our natural, God-given rights. They designed the US Constitution with clearly-limited authorities and roles. To further clarify the limitations imposed on the central government, they quickly amended it with the Bill of Rights (1791) to protect "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" from imperfect government officials.
The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections. — Robert H Jackson, US Supreme Court Justice (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), 319 US 624)
Nobody is the perfect elected official or civil servant. Some are more flawed than others. Too many are clearly evil.

Their relentless assault on a clearly defined constitutionally-guaranteed human right which "shall not be infringed" (unless they can get the majority vote feared by Justice Jackson) place congressmen Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, Frank Lautenberg, Carolyn McCarthy, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Nita Lowey, and others firmly in the "evil" category.

Some Americans aren't particularly concerned about some of the rights protected by the Constitution. One might not be concerned about being forced to house occupying soldiers (Third Amendment), or having to pay excessive bail (Eight Amendment), or having property taken by government agents without just compensation (Fifth Amendment), or being forced to give up the best means of self-protection -- a gun -- (Second Amendment) because these events are so rare nowadays or because one doesn't have a gun.

But, anyone who would ignore, tolerate, or encourage the loss of any natural right of any other person is subject to the loss some or all of the rights they cherish themselves. We all must be willing and prepared to fight for, and demand that government protect -- not infringe, all the natural rights of each other, regardless of whether we personally use or think we need those same rights.

Think of the US Constitution as a "Power of Attorney" wherein one person authorizes another to do certain acts on his or her behalf and which prohibits other specific acts. The Constitution is a "Power of Attorney" to do certain specifically-enumerated things on behalf of the States and the People. If the central government goes beyond that authority or if it fails to do anything it is required to do, it is in violation of the Constitution (Power of Attorney).

A key feature of the Constitution is the requirement that each of the above imperfect public servants (elected, appointed, and employed) swear an oath of loyalty to the Constitution -- not to an agenda, political party, or to any person (including voters). They swear to comply with the Constitution ("Power of Attorney") and to protect it from anyone who would violate it. That oath doesn't seem to mean much to most public servants nor to a very large portion of the American voters.

If our public servants follow that Constitution, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" are protected for all Americans and visitors. If it is not followed, only the elites have Liberty -- just as in feudal England, the former Soviet Union, or Mao's China -- so long as they aren't hanged by rivals for power or by the People -- just as in feudal England, the former Soviet Union, or Mao's China.

Unfortunately, the Constitution isn't self-enforcing. Experience has proven that the three branches of the central government cannot be relied on to enforce the Constitution nor to limit the usurpation of power by the central government.

Only one person can enforce the Constitution: the voter. We need smarter voters.

No comments:

Post a Comment