21 June 2008

Rights

From reading the background materials that the authors of our fine constitution recommended, I have come to the conclusion that rights are...

Rights are something that The State cannot pass ANY laws to stop me from doing. If I have a right to free speech, they are forbidden to pass a law telling me what I am allowed to say and where I am allowed to say it.

Rights do come with consequences. The classic example is yelling, "fire!" in a crowded theatre. I have a right to yell, "fire!" whenever I want. I do not have a right to be immune to the effects of my yelling. If someone dies in the stampede to get out, I have committed manslaughter. This is a subtle distinction about the right.

Recently I mentioned that a homeowner has a right to access his property. That means the state cannot, ever, bar my way. There are consequences to entering one's property in a disaster area. If a responsible adult is willing to accept those risks, then so be it. For disaster roadblocks, the cops should be filtering for people who don't have a right to be there. If I leave my property and start looting the neighbors, I am no longer within my rights and the police can now do something against me.

Remember, we are talking about rights, not law. Laws say lots of unconstitutional things. We are not talking about powers. Powers are something that "we the people" grant to government to execute our will, these powers are clearly delineated in the constitution in plain English. This is an important distinction, The State has powers, The People have rights. Laws are how The State is supposed to exercise its powers to protect The People's rights. The supporting reading pretty clearly indicates that we people are supposed to handle most disputes among ourselves. This is where the line between civil and criminal comes in.

Now, lets look at The US Constitution. No mention of a power that can prevent me from entering my property in a time of emergency. Amendments 9 and 10 specifically say that unless mentioned above, the government is not allowed. Amendment 14 applies the restrictions on the Federal government to the States (and lower jurisdictions). This means a state law that is unconstitutional under the federal constitution is unconstitutional even if it would have been legal under the state's constitution. So, since the government has no power to bar me from my rightful property, then it cannot. Seems simple doesn't it? It was supposed to be simple.

This is not a block of understanding that I am capable of delivering in a short essay. To fully grok, you'll have to pursue books by Locke, Machiavelli, Plato and Hobbes. You will need to read The Federalist Papers. Reading this stuff is painful, it's not written in modern English (or are translated). Understanding this stuff is not really difficult, but it's also not easy.

The modern police in the US is very much the standing army the anti-federalist faction were warning us about in the Federalist debate. The founders literally could not imagine our nation allowing the police such a monopoly. Citizens were expected to do most of the duties that today's police do. Not professionally, but when asked by the community. Normal citizens used to routinely be deputized to augment the very much smaller professional law enforcement personnel.

There is more, but it has not gelled.

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