Monday, July 28, 2008

The Importance of Inherent Rights

After my assertion that we have inherent rather than constitutional rights, it seems only proper that I also expand on just why we would rather our rights be inherent. There are literally scores of examples across history of governments abusing the rights of their people. From communist Russia and China to Nazi Germany to ancient Rome. Indeed, one of the major reason for the American revolution was the direct violation of the Colonists' rights in the period between the end of the Seven Year War and the start of the American Revolution.
Yes, it started with taxes. The Seven Year War was the first war funded through deficit spending, and the British crown began to impose new taxes directly on the colonies to repay the deficits accrued in that conflict. It's important to understand that at this time, the American colonials were the freest people in the world. The British Empire was more than just a collection of colonized and conquered lands. It maintained the sea lanes, promoted free trade, and provided for all of its people the concept of certain constitutional rights. Many of these were carried over into the American constitution, including the right of habeas corpus, the right to keep arms, assembly, speech, trial by jury... Indeed, many of the rights we enjoy today were first openly practiced throughout the British Empire.
So why were the Colonists so upset over taxes? Mostly, it comes from an understanding of the Empire as held by the colonists. While the British parliament had the right to tax, they could not tax the colonists directly, but rather only through trade and only through general taxes. They could not target the colonies of America for particular taxes. Between 1765 and 1770, Parliament passed several laws to increase taxes specifically on America, and then continued by trying to force the colonies to purchase only those items through Britain so that the Colonists would have to pay the taxes.
Start to see why the Colonists would have problems with this? Not only are they being taxed by a body in which they have no representation, but this same body is doing everything they can to force the Colonists to pay those taxes. Civil unrest was the result.
And to crack down on civil unrest, the Crown and the Parliament passed more laws. Eventually, they would start to deny particular constitutional rights. Amongst these were... habeas corpus, trial by jury, assembly... and many many more. Some of the more audacious acts, to the American mind, was the setting of a foreign colony (Quebec) in governance over the American colonies, and forcing the quartering of troops in citizen's homes. It had been a long held tradition in England that King of England could not cross the threshold of the meanest house in England without the permission of the owner. But again, all of the rights the Americans held dear were constitutional, and not inherent. They were gifts of the royal crown, and thus could be taken away by the same.
And thus do we have Thomas Jefferson writing, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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,' (emphasis mine).
With such clear and beautiful language establishing the concept of the inherent right, and making clear that governments role is to ensure our rights, not to provide them, how can any of us believe the lie that is the 'constitutional' right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The First Great Lie of American Politics

In my last post, I spoke about the American Experiment, which I described as an experiment in self-governance. And while some may define democracy as self-governance, I disagree. The idea of self-governance is that the people are basically free to do as the want, as long as they do not interfere to greatly in the lives of others. I also said that the people of America are the overseers of this experiment. And like any good overseers, from time to time, we must stop and ask an important question. Just what is the status of the experiment? When I take a look around at the whole of America, my overall summation is 'not to good.' Judging from consistently reported polls, it would seem that my summation is generally shared.
But what then, is the source of the troubles? Why is it that so many things seem to be going wrong? While I have no doubts that there are a myriad of sources for the troubles, but there are some causes which have a much greater effect. I find there are two major ideas which not only cause some of the troubles we find ourself today, but they are also core misconceptions from which other sources of our troubles arise. I call them the Two Great Lies of American Politics. I will discuss the first here.
The First Great Lie of American Politics is that we, the people, have constitutional rights. I know that even thinking that can cause people to become worried. Don't we want to have constitutional rights? Isn't it these rights that protect us governmental abuse? Aren't these rights the very bedrock of our country and society?
As to these rights being the bedrock of our country and society, and our protection against government abuse, then yes, they are. But they are not constitutional. For a right to be constitutional, it must be given or created by the Constitution itself. No, our rights as people are not constitutional, they are inherent. The Declaration states that some truths are self-evident, and that 'All Men are Created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain, inalienable rights, which amongst these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness' (emphasis mine). The framers of the Constitution understood that the three rights mentioned in the Declaration were only the start. They knew this because they were there when the Declaration was written, and they knew for what they went to war.
Indeed, an inherent right is far more powerful than any mere constitutional right. When Jefferson penned the immortal words of the Declaration, he told us the source of our rights. When a right is given to us, endowed upon us at birth, then what agency of Man can contain it? By right can any government limit it? Force onto us any restrictions? There is the power of the inherent right. And this is why it is so important that we, as Americans, recognize the lie that is the people's constitutional rights. No, it is government that has constitutional rights. The rights of the government are created by the constitution, and are given over to it to ensure a free and just society.
It's not hard to find the proof of this concept. You don't even need to compare our Constitution to others in the world. You can compare it to itself and see the difference.
Consider the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
And compare to the Sixteenth:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
Or to the first clause of the Eighth Section of the First Article, respecting the powers of Congress:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Throughout the Constitution this language is used. When respecting a right of the people, that right is assumed to exist. Only rights given to the government are expressed as such. Only Congress 'shall' have a power. A right of the people 'shall not be infringed.' This difference is very strong, and it clearly shows that the rights of the people are inherent, and not constitutional.

Recently, reading a published article by Michael Medved, I learned that he is in the process of publishing a book titled 'The Ten Big Lies About America.' Despite the similarity in titles, I am not a listener of Medved's radio show. Any similarity is strictly coincidental.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On the American Experiment

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln's words at Gettysburg. They rank high in the recognizable statements from our history. And few have managed to so easily capture just what makes America so special.
And make no mistakes. For all of her faults and failures, America is special. The real question is what was it that made her so. When our Founders committed treason against King George III, they probably weren't thinking too much on the form of government they would eventually adopt to replace the crown of England. And judging from the myriad of attempts made between the signing of the Deceleration and the eventual adoption of the Constitution, I would say that like many educated people of their time, they weren't afraid to try a little experimentation.
As in any experiment, there has to have been an end result. That end result was the American Experiment. And it is that experiment that is still on going. And while we are the beneficiaries of that experiment, we are also the overseers. And when I say 'we', I do not mean just us as Americans but specifically, we the people of America.
The great experiment our forefathers bequeathed us was not democracy per se; it was instead self-governance. And while many people might see democracy and self-governance as much the same, I would disagree. Self-governance is the political system centered around the individual given the freedom and space to make his own decisions to order his own life. To our Founders, government is not here to give us direction or provide order for our lives. Government is here only to provide the most basic of laws and services to allow the free man to do this.
And that is the American experiment. Providing just enough government so that people can order their lives as they wish and govern themselves.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rules of the Debate

Yes, I'm making a big deal about the rules for posting to this blog. I think they are pretty simple and easy to follow. Please abide by them and you'll find that no matter what position or idea you advocate, I will post your comments or full posts.

Rule 1: Feel free to disagree with me, or anyone. It's a free country, mostly.

Rule 2: No cursing. Seriously, there's no need for that kind of language here.

Rule 3: No ad hominem attacks. Attack the idea, not the person.

These rules apply to comments. I will delete any comments that do not follow these rules.
If you want to be an author for this blog and provide full posts, there are a couple of additional rules.

Rule 5: Use correct English and proper spelling. I don't need it to look like an English professor wrote it, but do the best you can. And use spell checker; I do.

Rule 6: Back up claims with evidence, through links or footnotes. 'Everyone knows' or 'most people agree' are the tools of yellow journalism and bad scientists. Easily verifiable claims do not need to be directly noted. This does not include opinion, only claims to fact or quotations.


Polls are consistently showing that the more than eighty percent of America feels that the country is 'on the wrong track'. What these polls do not tell us is what track is it that is so wrong? Is it just the Bush Administration? Is it the whole of Republican governance? I think that both of these contribute highly to the current malaise in this country. But I also think that the general anger and disappointment at President Bush and the Republican party hide a deeper problem that isn't being addressed by our politicians or most of the media in this country. I think that if you review the 'confidence' polls you'll see currently the Bush Administration (Republican) in the low 20s, and our congress (Democrat) in the single digits. The Supreme Court, which is nominally non-partisan but practically fairly balanced, isn't doing much better in confidence polls.
I think the problem lies within the whole of political philosophy that is currently being discussed. The problem is that everyone in our 'elite' society (politicians, academia, and media) view the political landscape through a Republican versus Democratic, Liberal versus Conservative, or Right versus Left debate, or some combination thereof. This results in a debate over whom should be in charge of government, rather than revolving around a central ideal of the role of government.
I propose that we, the people, can effect this. We need to start forcing our politicians to tell us about the governing philosophy. Not just what they will do to 'help' us. How do they view government? What do they feel the proper role of government might be? Is it simply to give us all a framework of simple, equal laws to provide for a free society? Is it to encourage society to grow in a particular direction? To create laws and regulations so that society and business must do certain things?
I know my answer to all of these questions. As time goes on, I will be elaborating on my answers and why I think that way. I will also be providing reasoned arguments and evidence to support my conclusions. I welcome anyone to join me, whether you a agree or disagree with my ideas. See the Rules post to see what I ask of you when you wish to post your ideas.