Bill of Rights

Michael Munger on majority rule and individual liberty

During an election year, voters frequently hear politicians point to public to prove support for their agenda. In trying to push through his tax hike prospoal, President Barack Obama has noted on several occasions that most polls show that Americans believe higher-income earners should pay more in taxes. Another example would be polls that show opposition from Americans to the Citizens United ruling, which protected political speech for domestic corporations.

But should the majority rule? During the debate over ratification in New York, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, explained the problem of majorities, or, as he called it, “faction.” Madison wrote, “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

This is why Madison and other Founding Fathers concluded that a democracy was not consistant the idea of free society that they sought for a new nation. Instead, as Madison wrote, “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”

Madison went into great detail about the problem of faction in Federalist 10, which is worth a read, if you have a few moments. But one can read Madison’s missive and see clearly that the vision the he had for the United States is one that has been largely lost, especially in the last 80 years or so.

WaPo Poll: Americans want limited government

United States Capitol

There is a lot of uncertainty headed into the fall. Will voters re-elect President Barack Obama, keeping him in the White House for another four years. Or will they choose a different course for the country with Mitt Romney. It’s hard to say where the minds of voters are at the moment in that regard, but a new Washington Post poll shows that Americans do want limited government:

A survey of 3,130 American adults conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation between July 25 and August 5 discovered that large majorities of Americans favor a smaller federal government and believe the government controls too much of our daily lives.
[…]
The poll asked: “Would you say you favor a smaller federal government with fewer services, or larger federal government with many services?”

Among all those polled, 55 percent said they wanted a smaller federal government and 40 percent said they wanted a larger federal government.

Among just the registered voters in the poll, 58 percent said they wanted a smaller federal government and 37 percent said they wanted a larger federal government.

The poll also asked: “Do you personally agree or disagree with the following statement. Government controls too much of our daily lives.”

Let’s be honest about guns

Second Amendment

This post was written by Richard Schrade, an attorney from Georgia and member of the Libertarian National Committee, and gun rights proponent.

The problem with all of the Second Amendment discussion is that very few people are willing to address this issue directly and accurately. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect the right to and ability to conduct an armed revol…ution. The Second Amendment was to protect the ability of the people to violently overthrow the government.

Even if one agrees with the “Militia limitation” on the Second Amendment, the Militias to which the Amendment refers were State Militias which would have been used to fight the federal government.

When viewed in this light, it is apparent that a limitation on automatic weapons would be an infrigment on the purposes of the Second Amendment. If we want to have an honest discussion about the issue of gun control, then let’s frame the discussion correctly, “Should the people have the right to keep and bear arms that could be used to violently overthrown the central government”.

Let’s remember that this country was formed in a violent revolution. Let’s remember that at Lexington and Concord citizen fired on and killed government solidiers sent by the central government to confiscate their weapons and arms.

If we are going to have gun control then let’s not dicker around the fringes. Let those who would limit the law-abiding citizen’s access to arms first repeal the Second Amendment. That would be the intellectually honest way to address the issue.

Romney relatives for Ron Paul

You may recall that back in January, Rick Santorum’s nephew came out in support for Ron Paul because of his uncle’s very statist record. Well, Ron Paul can now boast the support of some of Mitt Romney’s cousins, who came out for him ahead of Super Tuesday:

Ron Paul announced Monday that the Texas congressman had earned the endorsement from a group of who seem like they should be solidly in the corner of rival Mitt Romney: the former Massachusetts governor’s own family members.

Five distant cousins of Romney will all appear in Idaho on Monday in support of Paul’s presidential bid.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t a fan of the Constitution

In an interview with a Middle Eastern television station, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps the most reliable Leftist vote on the Supreme Court, said that the United States Constitution should not serve as a basis of law in Egypt:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has caused a storm of controversy by saying in a television interview that the people of Egypt should not look to the United States Constitution when drafting their own governing document because it’s too old and there are newer examples from which to draw inspiration.

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg said in the interview, which aired on Jan. 30 on Al-Hayat TV.

Her comments have stunned writers across the conservative blogosphere, though many major media outlets have not given much attention to it.

In the interview, she argued that the United States has the “oldest written constitution still in force in the world,” so instead “you should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone one since the end of World War II.”

“I might look at the constitution of South Africa,” Ginsburg said. “That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary.”

Ginsberg’s comments are reprehensible for a couple of different reasons. While our Constitution is imperfect, the Founding Fathers did include a mechanism for changing it via the amendment process in Article V. This process wasn’t supposed to be easy, but the process has served us well. Ginsburg failed to note this, at least in the comments that I’ve read.

5 Things You Need to Know About ACTA

In the midst of last week’s protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), I suggested that “[w]e’re fighting an uphill battle” against the powerful forces that want to censor the internet in the name of anti-piracy. Since then, many pundits and bloggers have been striking a triumphalist note now that both SOPA and PIPA appear to be dead in the water. But the best rule of thumb when you think you’ve beaten those who would erase our civil liberties is to reject complacency and assume that you haven’t. When they look like they’ve lost they’re usually just regrouping. The recent MegaUpload bust should prove that.

But if you’re still not convinced, you probably haven’t heard of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The U.S. Trade Representative’s office declares ACTA “the highest-standard plurilateral agreement ever achieved concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights.” A 2008 report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes clear that ACTA would accomplish at an international level what SOPA/PIPA were supposed to accomplish here in America. We, along with eight other nations, signed ACTA on October 1, 2011.

If you haven’t heard of ACTA before, here are five things you need to know:

The Hill names House GOP members that fight for limited government

It’s no secret that House Republican leadership, who often have to be prodded to stand on principle, has had issues with some members of their caucus. While they are often portrayed negatively by the media, many of us view them as the conscience of the Republican Party at a time when it would be easy to just “make a deal” with the White House and avoid big political fights.

The Hill recently went through a series of votes on key issues — ranging from the renewal of the PATRIOT Act to the government shutdown— and named off the dozen members who have consistantly stood for limited government values:

House Republican leaders had an extremely difficult time uniting their members in 2011, but some were far more exasperating than most.

But surprisingly, the most consistent GOP defectors during the last year were not freshmen, according to an analysis conducted by The Hill.

Veteran rank-and-file Republicans, not members of the historic class of 2010, have proven to be a greater challenge to keep in line.

The Hill’s review found that only two of the 12 biggest defectors in the House Republican Conference are freshmen: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.) and Jeff Duncan (S.C.).

The other 10 are Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Timothy Johnson (Ill.), Connie Mack (Fla.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Tom Graves (Ga.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Steve King (Iowa), Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.). All 12 legislators consistently opposed their leaders at key moments during the House GOP’s first year back in the majority since 2006.

Ron Paul may not win, but his influence will be lasting

“[T]here’s something weird going on when Paul, the small-government constitutionalist, is considered the extremist in the Republican Party…” - Jonah Goldberg

Establishment Republicans have worked hard during this election to play down the impact Ron Paul is having on the race. Why? They’re scared of him. Paul, with his anti-war and passion for the Constitution, represents a change in the traditional way of thinking in the Republican Party.

Ed Crane, president of the Cato Institute, explained this recently in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, noting that Paul “has traction because so many Americans respond to his messages.” Crane says:

Support for dynamic market capitalism (as opposed to crony capitalism), social tolerance, and a healthy skepticism of foreign military adventurism is a combination of views held by a plurality of Americans. It is why the 21st century is likely to be a libertarian century. It is why the focus should be on Ron Paul’s philosophy and his policy proposals in 2012.

Most of us can recall Paul predicting the financial crisis and many of the problems the country currently faces from an economic perspective. And while many Republicans are quick to dismiss Paul as being loony on his claims of increasingly diminished liberty, all you need to do is, you know, pay attention to the last few weeks as Congress passed and President Obama signed the NDAA; legislation that allows for the detention of American citizens.

NDAA: How bad can it be?

With Congress passing the NDAA, the question many ask is simple: How bad will/can it get?  It’s a fair question.  While the constitutional questions this bill raises are a topic of debate amongst the talking heads and various other politicos, the average person must ask that simple question.

The NDAA essentially turns the entire United States into a warzone for the purposes of combating terrorism.  It also gives the government extra-constitutional powers for this very same purpose. Officially, this is about Al Qaeda and “associated forces”, whatever that means.

The thing is, when you look at how Obama’s White House has defined “domestic terrorists”, one is left to wonder when will they decide to define “associated forces” to include domestic terrorists.  Honestly, I don’t think it would take very long, and as there is no due process, it’s unlikely that the courts will get a say on this for a very long time.

So the first thing we have to understand is, “what is a domestic terrorist”?

((5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that—

NDAA passes the Senate

The last hope of killing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has failed as the United States Senate effectively gutted Habeas Corpus and Due Process protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. With only 13 members voting against the conference report, it wasn’t even close.

The NDAA now heads to President Barack Obama, who has showed in recent days how much contempt he holds for civil liberties. Even though Obama has said he’d sign the bill, I would still suggest that you call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and make your voice heard.

Many thanks to Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and the other members of the Senate that stood with the Constitution and the civil liberties of their constituents this evening.

It’s ironic that yet another fundamental civil liberty has been gutted on Bill of Rights Day.


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