Quite often in this column I show why society would get along so very much better without any government at all, and that is certainly a position I'm ready and able to defend. In doing so, however, I've probably not given enough credit to the brave, perceptive few who founded this great Nation - with a government that was very small and weak and supposed to stay that way.
Yes, they were mistaken (as it's now rather easy to see!) in thinking that those constraints would work; they should have done it right first time, and had us manage without any government whatever. But no, it's less than fair to blame them for the monstrosity that we have today; they no doubt truly believed that they could keep their beast in its cage and did a magnificent job of trying to place obstacles in the path of its increased power.
So let me offer them some of that credit now, by noting the formidable barriers they set up, which their new government had to overcome before saddling Us the People with any of its miserable, intrusive and ruinously expensive laws.
Though the best known, this is the easiest barrier for government to leap over, for all they need is a simple 51% majority, and they can and do reduce even that by manipulating who's allowed to vote and by packaging many laws together so that we're denied a "line-item veto" over each individually. They have even used their media friends to spread the utter lie that we have a "two party system"! We don't, and never had, yet in practice it's no longer even as many as two. What we have is one party (two flavors) with others jealously excluded.
But even so, the Ballot barrier is useful, for it does limit their power a tad.
- and typewriter, quill pen, microhone, camera, phone, Internet PC, and all other forms of human communication that fall under the marvellous umbrella of "free speech". This hurdle is still partly in place! - one of the few. It means that nobody is allowed to be harassed by government for expressing dissent, spreading sedition, for encouraging revolution or refusal to obey its laws. It's enshrined in part of Amendment #1, which Pols promise to honor but don't.
The very next Amendment (#2) may be the barrier they hate the most, for it says that if all other restraints should be overcome, We the People still have this final protection available: we can keep whatever weapons We see fit, without a shred of lawful impediment, ready to shoot them dead (with a Gordon Liddy "head shot", perhaps) if they violate our other freedoms. It was so recognized by the Founders, and the tatters of it are still in place today, despite the humongous efforts of Pols everywhere to shred it word from word. It's the only one that gives "teeth" to those magnificent Ten. They would otherwise be unenforcible.
Both Amendment #5 and #1 (silence being one option within "free speech") guarantee the right of each of us to say nothing to government agents. The actual words used in #5 don't say our right is "not to incriminate ourselves", as the Pols love to pretend; it says it's "not to be a witness against himself", period. That is, we have the right to hold our tongues absolutely. And that's an excellent idea, if ever any government agent in or out of uniform should pose you any question: the three rules are: #1 Be quiet, #2 Stay silent, and #3 Shut Up! Most of the convictions they do get, rightly or wrongly, they get because the accused person opens his mouth. Don't! It's your right not to!
I'm going to write a heap more about this one, for only recently have I been made aware of just how awesome is the power of the jury to limit government. For now, let's just note that in any lawsuit at all (and only two sorts are allowed, criminal and civil - so a "traffic court" is illegal on its face) each of us is protected from the power of government by twelve true persons, with the unchallengable right not to convict unless they are unanimously agreed both that the guilt is proven AND that the applicable Law is just and fair.
So if a jury finds a law NOT to be fair and acceptable, it can overturn it - for that case only, of course. But for that priceless attribute of a true jury, Prohibition would still be in place. So would the Salem witch hunt. So would restrictions on free speech; for only a few years before the Bill of Rights was written, Peter Zenger was prosecuted in New York City for printing rude things about the Governor! Prompted by journalist Vin Suprynowicz, I recently did some arithmetic and can confirm that if a 12-person, unanimous-vote jury is randomly selected and properly informed of its powers, there would be a less than 50% chance for government to enforce any law at all unless it commanded the approval of at least 95% of the population! Astonishing!
The Exclusion Barrier
I've room for just one more, though of course those wonderful first ten amendments contain many others - such as the absolute right to privacy and property in Amendment #4. But the best of all, perhaps, is #9; it says that the listing of these rights "shall not be construed to deny... others retained by the people." Wow! Unless government is given some power in the rest of the Constitution, it doesn't have it; we do! They are excluded from doing anything at all, unless expressly permitted in that Supreme Law! Amazing! - and, of course, carefully ignored every hour of every day in every legislature and court in the land. But it's written there; and so, every last one of them is breaking that Supreme Law, thereby making themselves the criminals, not Us.
There are six of the barriers we've inherited. Which will YOU help re-activate?
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 251
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