Thursday, December 15, 2011

The well-worn documents

Today is the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights.  Given the circumstances of the past decade, it would be a good use of the occasion to reflect on their purpose:
By advancing the myth that the “Bill of Rights” grants the American people individual rights, the federal government has been able to assume the role of “protector” of those rights. This has allowed it to transform restraints on power into grants of power. The federal government now claims it has the power to impose “reasonable restraints” on any right enumerated in the “Bill of Rights.” This is an absurdity because the Amendments were specifically written and adopted to restrain the powers of the federal government. If the federal government is allowed to assume this power, then the Constitution is meaningless as a written document because government can simply modify or remove every restraint on its power.

The Bill of Rights grants nothing... what it does is codify recognition of pre-existing 'inalienable rights' (as the Founders put it).  It compels the government to respect those limits on its power -- but only if the citizens are vigilant in demanding that respect.  Several States refused to ratify the proposed Constitution without the Bill of Rights because they believed the document did not adequately restrain the new Federal Government.  This in itself should be telling -- the BoR does not bestow power; it denies it.  It says to Uncle Sam, "this far, and no further."

If, as it seems today, the majority become convinced that it is government that grants them power, rather than the other way around, it logically follows the government, by default, can do whatever it pleases.  I seriously doubt that is the structure for which the Founding generation suffered and fought.

(HT: Bonnie Blue Blog)

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