Why have a Bill of Rights?
By Dr. Robert Owens
In any free society that area of life which is left to the sole discretion of the individual includes all actions that are not specifically forbidden by a general law.
In our nation when it came time for the ratification of the Constitution it would have been impossible to gain the votes needed if the backers of a centralized national government had not promised that the first thing they did was pass a Bill of Rights. It had been asserted by the proponents of liberty that to enumerate such a list would eventually become a statement that only those rights enumerated were protected. However, it was generally believed certain rights were so important and so open to suppression that fundamental guarantees were needed. In consequence the Constitution was lengthened to include the first ten amendments as the opening business of Congress.
Over time the argument that these enumerated rights would come to be seen as the only ones protected has certainly come to pass, which is another of the assertions of the Anti-Federalists that have stood the test of time. However, it has also been shown that without these constitutional protections these enumerated rights would have long ago been relegated to the ash heap of History.
Even with the protection of the Bill of Rights there has been a steady chipping away at the rights our forefathers thought were so important. A Supreme Court that has abrogated onto itself the power to nullify the will of the people as expressed in legislation and to invent rights that are nowhere enumerated debates whether or not "shall not be infringed" really means it is legal to restrict.
In our age of seemingly endless technological change we must admit that any enumerated list of rights cannot be complete. What about surveillance? Does our right to privacy which has been asserted to allow tens of millions of abortions extend to our growing Orwellian Omni-present surveillance state? Does the state have a right to follow us with drones? To kill us without due process? To collect our emails, our phone calls or keep a ledger of where we go? Under President Bush people demonstrated because his administration wanted to see the records of library withdrawals. Under President Obama the populace is silent about the most egregious violations of our rights.
What about the rights of the States? Do they have the right to be protected from invasion? Do they have the right to pass and enforce laws that call for local agencies to enforce the federal laws that the central government refuses to enforce? Ever since the 17th Amendment stripped the States of their representation in Congress our federal system has been debilitated to the point of paralysis. Today the central government runs roughshod over the States demanding that they stand by helplessly as their citizens are harassed and their sovereignty is evaporated.
If the Bill of Rights is to remain as any type of bulwark against tyranny it must be accepted that they contain a general assumption that government is restrained from infringing upon the traditional rights that we have enjoyed. If we stand ideally by while our rights are redefined to irrelevance we will one day wake up to find ourselves in a prison camp we once called the United States of America.
We have experienced over the course of the last two hundred years that the Constitution could be no more than a somewhat porous protection from the assumption of total power by a centralized government. Today we endure levels of control and taxation that make the causes of our own Revolution pale in comparison. It is hard not to believe that if Washington, Henry, and that generation were with us today they wouldn't be issuing declarations and raising the alarm, "The totalitarians are coming! The Totalitarians are coming!!"
The only protection of this creeping corruption of our constitutionally limited government is an informed public. If the people sleep the tyrants dream. They dream of ordering society to match whichever version of a utopian pyramid scheme they adopt to fool the people. It matters little whether they call it communism, fascism, or progressivism a re-education camp is a prison by another name. It matters little whether we call it censorship or political correctness. It matters little whether we call it taxes or penalties. It matters little whether we call it coercion or regulation.
What does matter is whether we are truly free or free only in name. Can we do what we want or can we merely do what is allowed?
Outside of the bounds of the constitutionally established amendment process the Progressives have used the fiction of a Living Document to make the Constitution a dead letter. Executive orders, signing statements, court decisions, and the bewildering framework of regulation stretch the power of government while restricting the freedom of the people.
Empires rise and empires fall. Some fall due to invasion and some due to suicide. The European Empires committed suicide in two fratricidal World Wars that destroyed their cities and left their people shell-shocked and unwilling to bear the burden of power.
Today we watch while our great republic jettisons the world girdling empire it inherited from the exhausted Europeans. We stand mute as our leaders abandon the leadership not only of the free world but of the world itself. Not for the noble cause of reasserting freedom at home but instead because we have spent ourselves into bankruptcy with bread and circuses to amuse the masses while a clique of elites concentrates power. We have empty suits leading representatives who have gerrymandered their way to perpetual election presiding over an unelected bureaucracy that rules by decree.
Does liberty still ring or has the bell finally cracked beyond repair? Why do we have a Bill of Rights? So we can remember who we once were.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens