by L. Neil Smith
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution — commonly known as the Bill of Rights — are the highest law of the land.
Over the 200 years it’s been in force, certain people — usually politicians and bureaucrats who wanted more power and found the Bill of Rights an inconvenient obstacle (exactly as it was intended to be) — have argued over its proper interpretation.
During the Lincoln, Wilson, and second Roosevelt Administrations, the Bill of Rights was openly violated and even set aside, using an ongoing war as a handy excuse. As a result, the size and power of government grew at the expense of individual liberties which, for the most part, were never given back even when the war was over. Similar violations have been committed in the name of the War on Drugs.
However no legal provision exists for the suspension of the Bill of Rights, in time of war or any other emergency. Any government employee, elected or appointed, from policeman to President, who violates it, no matter what justification he offers, is a criminal.
This claim may appear strange or trivial, until we count the cost of such violations, and realize that the events of September 11, 2001 could never have happened if the rule of law — the highest law of the land — had been fully enforced as the nation’s Founders intended.
If Constitutional limits on the power of government — on the President and Congress — had been properly enforced, the kind of interference typical of American foreign policy that has people overseas hate us and want to kill us would have been impossible.
And if the Second Amendment had been enforced, the September 11 killers would have faced aircraft containing armed passengers and would probably never have thought of trying to hijack those planes.
So far, the government’s response to its own terrible failures of September 11 has been to imitate Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt, and do its best to limit the freedom of Americans even further, passing laws and creating regulations that violate nearly every one of the first ten amendments and transform America into a police state.
And in a transparent and pathetic effort to look better in its blundering, the government cites polls taken of a populace who have been indoctrinated all their lives by establishment mass media and the public schools — and haven’t the vaguest clue what their rights are, or what’s been done to them in war after war.
The fact is, crime of any kind, whether it kills six people or six thousand, represents a diffuse threat, and can only be countered with a diffuse defense. Individuals must be free to act — as individuals — against it. Only the most stringent, energetic, and enthusiastic Bill of Rights enforcement can guarantee that freedom to act.
Those Founding Founders who wrote the Bill of Rights made sure it was written clearly, in plain language. They meant it to be understood by everybody, not just lawyers and judges — working for politicians and bureaucrats — attempting to “explain” it all away.
There is only one correct way to interpret the Bill of Rights. Put yourself in the Founding Fathers’ place: if you had just finished a long, bloody shooting war against the biggest, most violently ruthless empire on the planet — and surprised yourself and everybody else by winning it — and the last thing you wanted was to find yourself, your children, or their children under the heel of tyranny again, exactly what would you have intended the Bill of Rights to mean?
Is it possible you would have given government — which the Founders saw as the natural enemy of human freedom, dignity, and hope — the power to suspend the Bill of Rights? Or would you have wanted those vital, life-giving rights protected by a new kind of government whose only excuse for existing was to enforce them?
The Bill of Rights is what America is all about. Without it, we’d be just like any other country with too much government. We’d be like China, or Russia, or Germany without the Bill of Rights. As somebody said, we’d be the world’s biggest banana republic.
Every problem America ever had could have been solved by enforcing the Bill of Rights. Every problem America has now could be solved by enforcing the Bill of Rights. Every problem America will ever have will be solved by enforcing the Bill of Rights.
Or else it won’t be America any more.
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