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Why Have a Bill of Rights ? July 24, 2014

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics, Politiocal Philosophy.
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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 drrobertowens@hotmail.com Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

It Can’t happen Here January 10, 2013

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Revolutions happened in other countries.  The USSR, their satellite countries in Eastern Europe and Asia, African countries, and of course those banana republics somewhere down south, but one thing is for sure, it can’t happen here.  Following in the footsteps of giants who have used these prophetic words of Sinclair Lewis I want to examine how it did happen here.

In the America of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, in the America we inherited from our forefathers we knew that there could never be a revolution.  We had the Constitution with its checks and balances, its separation of powers, and its Bill of Rights.  These were rock solid, carved in stone, and strong enough to preserve the Republic and safe guard the freedom of its people.

Besides the American people would not stand for some wannabe dictator and his brown, black or whatever color shirt followers marching through the streets and into the White House.  The sons of the Pioneers wouldn’t sit still for any attempt to curtail limited government, personal freedom, or economic opportunity.  No way!  No how!  Others might accept censorship, surveillance, and rigged elections, but not us, not Americans.  We had fought wars to defend our independence, wars to defeat totalitarianism; we had even fought wars to spread freedom.  No, we wouldn’t quietly allow homegrown tyrants to grasp the levers of power.

I sounds so comforting, “It can’t happen here.”  If you take a beginning Political Science class in either High School or College you will learn how the government works. How bills become laws, how the legislature is made up of the freely elected representatives of the people, how the President runs the executive branch and the Supreme Court sits atop the judicial branch.  You will learn about the Declaration of Independence and how the Constitution was written to replace the Articles of Confederation which were too weak to work.  Yes, you will learn all about how it’s supposed to work.

In most schools you will also learn that the Constitution is a “living Document” that can be re-interpreted to fit every generation and every age.  The results of 100 years of re-interpretation have led us to the brink of ruin and me to recommend that the study of the Constitution be moved from Political Science to History, since what rules us today is legal precedent and bureaucratic regulation.  The courts use foreign laws and traditions to interpret our laws and traditions.  The legislature passes laws they don’t read filled with thousands of pages of vague platitudes and goals that the bureaucrats fill in with no oversight and the force of law.  And the President does whatever he wants and no one says a thing.

So how did America fall for the oldest con in the world: “Give me your freedom and I’ll give you security?”

Those who wished to gain power had no ideology or theology which inspired them.  They only sought power for power’s sake.  They espoused whatever populist themes gave them the broadest support.  To bring as many interest groups as possible into their coalition they embraced an “I’m okay you’re okay” relativity that rejected absolutes and extoled the fringe as the mainstream.

And all the while the decedents of the blacksmiths and farmers who once congregated on corners to discuss the latest political pamphlet or to debate the merits of economic policy snoozed on the couch waking up long enough to go to work or watch the game.

The Revolutionaries of the New America first took root in the faculty lounges of academia providing the intellectual and cultural cover for an American movement that promoted the opposite of everything America stood for.  From the classrooms of our colleges, came the next generations of teachers, journalists, lawyers, artists, and politicians.  Soon it was common knowledge that our once rock-solid Constitution was a Living Document to be twisted and changed whenever those in power found the need.

From here it was just a matter of time until a revolution was accomplished through evolutionary change.  Once the centers of power were secure in Washington, Hollywood, and in the media the trickle of change became a torrent and the torrent became a tsunami.  Two wings on the same bird of prey, perpetually re-elected representatives from the twin headed party of power pander to the lowest common denominators, buying votes, using taxes to punish enemies, and tax money to reward friends. 

Our tyrants-in-training have captured the government and the economy, created a dependent class of motor-voters, convinced people that a continually growing debt is sustainable, and turned the government into the one who picks winners and losers instead of a free economy.  The slow slide down a slippery slope has accelerated into a precipitous procession over a predictable precipice.  To those who have seen this coming it is like watching a slow motion train wreck.  The coming destruction is not mitigated in the least by the decades or warning.

Our prideful boast of it can’t happen here has become a heart wrenching analysis of how it did happen here.  How did the Progressives capture our land and subvert our Republic?  They did it gradually inch by inch, step by step.  When they lost a round they held their gains and as soon as possible recovered their long march toward a totally transformed nation.

How they changed it brings us to the question, “How do we change it back?”

Violent revolt is both repugnant and obviously suicidal to people who understand that once that genie is out of the bottle there is no way to know which way it will go, except that the odds are heavily against it ever landing back in a stable land of limited government and personal freedom.  The power of the state is overwhelming.  Millions of shot guns, pistols, and even those terrible assault rifles we are constantly being lectured about would make no headway against Abrams tanks and F-18s. 

There are only two ways to have a successful peaceful revolution.  One: the vast majority of the people must go on strike and refuse to operate as a society until the changes have been made.  Or two: it must happen gradually line upon line verse upon verse always keeping the goal in sight and moving forward at every opportunity.  In other words we must do to the new establishment what they did to the old: not overthrow it, supplant it, and replace it in the hearts and minds of the people.

We can rest assured that all people at all times eventually yearn for freedom thus the stage is set by the very nature of man that God imprinted on us in His creation.  Free choice is the natural state of man and in the end we will return to it.  This pall of totalitarianism which is falling like a shadow across the land will one day awake to find the light of liberty cannot be quenched forever.

What should we do?  Education is the key.  If you are not a teacher become one.  Learn to show yourself approved.  Teach anyone who will listen of freedom, of the true History of the American experiment.  Become involved in any way you can to retake control of our education system so that we can train the coming generations to love freedom, truth, justice, and the American way.

And don’t lose hope.  God created us to be free, and though tyrants always seek to ensnare people in their self-serving systems we will one day be free again.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Remember what we thought couldn’t happen here has and what they think can’t happen to them will. Freedom will rise from the ashes and one day the light of liberty will once again burn brightly in America the beautiful.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

Real Rebels and the Counter Revolution March 8, 2012

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Think of America’s Founders.  These were real rebels.

Sam Adams agitated against the imposition of taxes.  He penned the petitions which brought forth the rallying cry “No taxation without representation!”  While avoiding violence he led the effort to organize resistance to tyranny.  He founded the Committee of Correspondence in Massachusetts and inspired its spread to the other colonies.  He organized boycotts of British goods and the public trial of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

In a world of divine right kings where the common man was a pawn to be exploited and demeaned James Madison made these revolutionary statements, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.  Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”  And, “An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”

Patrick Henry did more than say, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Before the Revolution, as a member of the Assembly in Virginia he led in the formation of a resistance movement against the tyranny of the British crown.  During the Revolution he served in the Continental Congress that passed the Deceleration of Independence.  After the Revolution he was not afraid to stand up against the desire of many to impose a Constitution without a Bill of Rights leading in the fight to maintain the greatest amount of individual liberty and the strongest limits to the central authority possible under the new Federal Government.  As if he could see the convolutions which currently threaten to swallow the Republic Mr. Henry reminded us at the beginning of our national experiment in limited government, “When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: Liberty, sir, was the primary object.”

Today the world is turned upside down.  The so called radical rebels of the sixties now own or control most things including the government.  The anti-establishment has become the establishment and the silent majority is being told to remain silent while this progressive minority transforms our nation into what their collectivist programmers have taught them it should be.  And yet they still see themselves as the rebels fighting a faceless bureaucracy for freedom never realizing they have met the enemy, and they are them.

All of this made me think about my old friend the professional revolutionary and something hit me.  He has always considered himself a rebel.  And considering he has made a living out of being a spokesman for the movements dedicated to destroying the America we have always known that kind of made sense at one time.

But in reality he is now and has consistently in the past loyally spouted the logical progression of the anti-American, anti-capitalist garbage that many of the teachers at our good old public High School tried to shove into our young skulls full of mush.  He also sounds exactly like all of our contemporaries who have spent a lifetime drinking at the well of the Corporations Once Called the Mainstream Media. Though they see themselves as deep thinkers it has always been obvious they receive their programming, their news and views from the major networks, and the transcripts in the print media.  They spout the same anti-traditional values pro-socialism talking points time after time.

Their representatives have spent decades chipping away at the America we love in the movies, on television, and in songs.  They have gained control of one component of society at a time: education, the media, the board room, the Congress, and finally the White House.   Through patience and planning they have gained control of the entire federal government and the elites of most areas of society.  Therefore I cannot see why we should continue referring to them as rebels merely because they see themselves that way.  When you listen to their current spokesmen such as the Daily Show, Bill Maher, or any of the MSNBC line up they come off as so hip and so cutting edge when in fact they agree 100% with the current administration and its collectivist anti-life New Age agenda.  What’s rebellious about that?  That’s like saying Pravda was a radical spokesman for change when they parroted whatever the leaders of the former USSR had to say.

Today my friend the professional rebel is actively helping recruit and train the brown shirt Occupy troops?  They may rail against Wall Street but that same Wall Street promotes and funds the very people these protesters vote for.  Someone is being used for something, but they never seem to wake up to ask, “Why should we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?”

I can no longer consider myself a conservative.  What is there left to conserve?  I am a radical and a rebel, because I advocate for limited government, personal liberty, and economic freedom.  These 1960s retreads who continue to advocate for the progressive collectivists who have won their revolution and now occupy the seats of power are faux rebels: organizational apparatchiks spouting the party line.

Look at how revolutionary some of our real rebels still sound today:

Sam Adams said, “The Constitution shall never be construed… to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” And “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”  He also said, “Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.”

Patrick Henry said, “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”  And, “We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature has placed in our power… the battle, sir, is not to the strong alone it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”  When thinking of his most famous statement we should keep it in context and recall the whole quote, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

So the next time the nightly faux news shows are filled the antics of the faux rebels demonstrating for more government power, or the next time one of your relatives or old friends wants to fill your ear with their oft repeated mantras for the collectivist establishment tell yourself, “This is the time for real rebels and the counter revolution.”

And if pointing out the transparent hypocrisy of the faux rebels of today should ever be considered too rebellious for the faint of heart let me share one more quote from Patrick Henry, “If this be treason, make the most of it!”

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

Does Equality Mean We Are All The Same April 26, 2010

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In the Declaration of Independence a new thing entered the world, a country founded upon the idea of equality. The Old World consisted of societies built upon hereditary class and entrenched privilege. Beginning with words that still burn within the breast of Patriots, this great document proclaims two types of equality.
Based upon the first clause, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” the first type is equality before the law. We all stand before the bar of justice on the same footing. There aren’t different laws for different classes. The definition of murder is the same for the homeless person, the mechanic and the billionaire. This equality, a natural part of our creation proclaims that neither classes nor other artificial divisions will ever be recognized in law or enshrined through legislation.
Based upon the second clause, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the second type is equality of opportunity. Everyone is entitled to their life and the fruits of it. Each of us has an equal right to the liberty of action, the freedom to choose our life’s path and to make our own decisions. And each of us has the right to pursue happiness. In almost all other lists such as this from the period, many of them written into state constitutions by the same people who wrote the Declaration, this is the right to own property and the happiness here is assumed to mean the right to use our own talents and the things they gain for us for our own benefit as long as we do not injure nor hinder others.
These rights and the equality they express were later protected by the Constitution. Congress shall not confer titles of nobility. Congress shall not pass bills of attainder convicting groups or individuals without a trial. Through the use of these and other negatives the Framers sought to secure Americans the possession of the equality proclaimed by the Declaration. The Bill of Rights went even further in declaring what Congress could not do in the attempt to guarantee the continued exercise of the equality granted by our Creator. The mechanism the Framers used to keep freedom alive was limiting government for they knew governments gain power by subtracting freedom from individuals.
However, it needs to be noted that the limitations placed upon government as a means of securing the equal rights of citizens in no way states that there should be a leveling of all people or that there will not continue to be distinctions and differences among them. This was never stated and never intended for the belief in or vision of a population with standardized talents, inclinations and goals does not match reality. There are as many different sets of these as there are people. In each individual, life should be open to choice. The only boundaries being that we do no harm nor proscribe the choice of others. This is the level playing field of creation, a pure equality of opportunity to be harvested in proportion to the Creator’s gift of talents and our investment of time and effort.
As long as the role of government is limited, and as long people are free to operate within the informal social arrangements of a non-regimented, non-stratified society there’s no tension between equality of opportunity and liberty. This quest for equality of outcome has become a social goal adopted as a reason for destroying society as it is in the name of society as a small cadre of radicals thinks it should be. In the aftermath of economic or societal collapse, revolutionaries, or in the case of the American Progressives “Evolutionaries,” will seek to erect in the place of popular government a bureaucratic tyranny devoted to leveling all to the lowest common denominator. Except of course for the levelers themselves who rise by deciding who gets what, and it’s the deciders who always seem to get the most. For, some perceive that equality of all is not the same as the equality of some, or as the ruling pigs in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm declare, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This reflects the subversion of equality of opportunity into equality of outcome or as it’s termed by Progressives equal opportunity.
To build this monument to mediocrity the philosophers of progressivism subtly change the meaning of equality. Instead of the opportunity for all to succeed it becomes the certainty of everyone getting a trophy for showing up, a diploma for attendance or a check for not working. Built upon the premise that if all are created equal all should end up equal thus denying the goal of equality the chance to go as far and as fast as talent and hard work can lead.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

Since Some Don’t Worry About the Constitution We Should April 5, 2010

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One of the greatest challenges in teaching History is to convey the uniqueness in its conception of something that through the passage of time has become an accepted part of everyday life. When something has been around longer than we have it’s hard to realize that it wasn’t always there. It takes a conscious effort to understand that yesterday wasn’t today only earlier and tomorrow won’t be today only later. The permanence of the now is an illusion which helps us walk as if the shifting sands of our lives are really the solid shore of the sea of time.
When Americans organize anything of importance they immediately write a construction. In most cases American organizations include a president, vice-president, and a legislative type board. From the classroom to the boardroom from Main Street to Wall Street this is just the way we do things. The idea that there needs to be a written constitution is assumed. And looking at our history this only makes sense. For hundreds of years and for generation after generation we have lived lives of peace, prosperity and power under the shade of the most remarkable secular document to have ever come from the hand of man, the Constitution of the United States.
The birth of our Constitution shines as an almost miraculous event in the story of mankind. From the beginning of time might had always made right. One strong arm after another elbowed their way to center stage. Once there eventually their descendants grown fat on the plunder of the helpless became in turn plunder for the next strong arm. Those who managed through the passage of time to become fixtures in their culture reigned as monarchs saying God gave them a divine right to continue plundering those under their sway conveniently forgetting it was the strong arm of their less noble ancestors that slaughtered their way to the top. They may have arrived in chariots, but they were chariots of steel not fire.
A few centuries before the founding of the English colonies in America the people of England began to put limits on their king. They used violence and economics to wrest the guarantees of some basic individual rights, the recognition that the king was not absolute, and that there were some checks upon his power. The Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights were snatched from the king’s chain-mailed fist. Through the passage of time they became the accepted rights of all Englishmen. And when our ancestors founded Virginia, the first among English colonies the charter granted by the king stated that those who came to the New World were granted all liberties, franchises and immunities as if they were abiding and born within England. The colonists believed this and acted accordingly. With loyalty to the King and Parliament they set about organizing the land. Local assemblies, republican in nature were democratically elected. And it was only when George III and his ministers seemed to have forgotten that the colonists had rights that Americans took up arms to secure those rights.
After the Revolution, when it came time to create a government the Framers turned to a written constitution. In the birth of nations this was something new. England does not have a written constitution. Ours was the first; a unique attempt to limit government in order to preserve liberty. Most constitutions in the world today model themselves after ours. And if their authors did not consciously model their written document after ours the very concept of a written constitution is of American origin.
This earth-shaking event has become mundane. This ground-breaking experience now seems so common it’s glossed over with the boring presentation of a high school history class, memorize some names and few dates, regurgitate it for a test and forget it. For the first time a people had founded a government of the people, by the people and for the people. And to ensure the tranquility and safety of the people they limited that government through the separation of power into three branches and the maintenance of a unique federal system of sovereign states united as one. This is the source and the summit of American greatness: the Constitution which established and maintained a limited government providing for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Using the ideals and moral standards of the present to interpret the past is known as Presentism. Using presentism as a lens, many citizens today believe the Constitution is a living document meant to be reinterpreted with each passing generation. Others echo the former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales point of view, “The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.” Instead of changing the document through the established amendment process they believe they can change the document through court decisions, precedent and legislation.
Twenty-first century America has been called post-Christian, post-capitalist, and post-racial. I would suggest that if we continue on the path we’ve chosen the future may refer to twenty-first century America as post-constitutional. For if the leaders of the present can impose unconstitutional laws then we’ve ceased to have a government of laws and have instead a government of men. One Congressman summed up the arrogance of our leaders perfectly. When asked where in the Constitution he finds the authority to impose the burden of purchasing health care on the American people he answered, “I don’t worry about the Constitution.” Since he doesn’t we should.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

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