Many, if not most Americans, mistakenly believe that United States citizens have enjoyed the freedoms and liberties that we do in large measure or completely due to the Bill of Rights which is written into our constitution. Actually nothing could be further from the truth.
Don't get me wrong our Bill of Rights are not only historically important they are in large measure, in the beginning at least, what set us apart from the rest of the world and began an age of political enlightenment that spread around the globe. But the truth is almost every nation has some form of "Bill of Rights" written into their constitutions most very similar to our own. Even the UN Charter which is supposed to guide its member nations has a very ambitious "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Here are just a few of the thirty articles which all nations belonging to the United Nations allegedly are bound to promote and follow:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person....
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination....
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him....
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property...
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures....
Some pretty good stuff in there isn't there? Most nations have some pretty good stuff written into their Constitutions. Quite a few of these nations have rights written into their various constitutions to protect citizen's rights not unlike this from the former Soviet Union's Constitution
Article 50. In accordance with the interests of the people and in order to strengthen and develop the socialist system, citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly, meetings, street processions and demonstrations.
Exercise of these political freedoms is ensured by putting public buildings, streets and squares at the disposal of the working people and their organisations, by broad dissemination of information, and by the opportunity to use the press, television, and radio....
Article 52. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.
In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.
All good stuff. but they were not worth the paper they were written on if, and here is what is important, if the government is not charged and willing to protect these rights.
Our Founding Fathers recognized this, that words were meaningless unless a mechanism is in place which would enable individual liberties to be protected.
Protected from what? What is the only entity in any nation which has the power to withhold or deny a citizen of their individual rights? Is it the fat cats on Wall Street? Big oil? Big Pharma? No, only one entity has the power to deprive an individual of the "right to life, liberty and security of person" and that is that nation's government.
What made the United States different was not that we had a Bill of Rights. it is that the Founders protected those rights by disabling the power of the government they created from impugning on those rights. They did this in many ways beginning with the Oath of Office which all government officials take which in one form or another binds the official not to the government or even the nation but rather to the Constitution which itself protects the rights of the individual. Our elected officials are not sworn to protect the United States per say but rather the document which protects the individual against the government they are about to join.
In affect government officials are honor bound to protect the rights of the individual "against all enemies foreign and domestic" through the mechanisms within the Constitution.
Whenever the Constitution is circumvented, even with good intentions as it's goal, what is actually being circumvented is the individual rights guaranteed within the Constitution though this may not be readily apparent. For example when the House and Senate used unorthodox and strong handed methods to overcome the minorities (Republicans) legitimate parliamentary check on Obamacare, they not only poisoned the well of their own institution, they undermined the very spirit of our Constitution and thus individual rights. Although the individual mandate is obviously a violation of the Constitution the far more damaging aspect of it is the degree to which elected representatives were willing to go with virtually no concern for the destruction of the very document which they not only swore an oath to, but which was designed to protect the rights of the individual.
The fact that these representatives of the people were elected by the people and were given by those citizens the consent to dilute if not destroy their very liberties is a testament to how naive and ignorant a large segment of Americans are to the fundamentals of their own freedom.
The US Constitution was designed to promote gridlock and the two party system when actually operational insures that it will. Why do we have Obamacare? We have Obamacare because for a time we had a one party system which was willing to trample on the traditional rights of the minority party in order to pass something which they felt was best for the nation.
The reason that the US Constitution was designed the way that it was, is to prevent exactly what has occurred over the past three years and to a large degree what has been happening over the past century. It was designed so that when the nation wishes to make significant changes in American society, politically or otherwise, well defined hurdles must be overcome to insure that it is in fact consistent with the "consent of the governed" without trampling on the rights of the minority. It is not to say that the minority view will always veto that of the majority, only that the minority will always have the opportunity to be a recognized and respected participant in the affairs of the nation. Only in this way can a minority view not only be heard, it can have an opportunity to sway the society to its view.
This process, the protection of the minority view point while seeking to ascertain what is the "consent of the governed" is not only a fundamental ingredient to our Republic, it is a key component to true freedom. It protects our society not only from the tyranny of the majority but also of the minority. It also insures the possibility that a minorities view point has an opportunity, which it has many times in our history, through "the battlefield of ideas" to win over a free society to its point of view. The majority is not always right but they are always the majority. If the majority is wrong it must be swayed to another point of view through a civil process. This civil process of political discourse is one of the most important and ingenious aspects of our form of government which is laid out in our Constitution. It is actually beyond ingenious it is inspired and rightly promoted and understood. it is inspirational.
Obamacare is a text book example of why our Founders designed our institutions to be more of a "do nothing" than a "do something!" form of government. They knew, and history has proven, that governments by their very nature will seek, grow and covet their power to the detriment of individual liberty.
What has transpired is as predictable as human nature, as government power and size has grown, not only have people's liberties been diminished, people's self reliance has been subjugated to a unhealthy reliance upon government. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than the two movements which now have arisen in America, The Tea Party Movement and The Occupy Wall Street Movement. One which is demanding that government do less while the other demands that government do more. One of these is the majority opinion and one is in the minority.
It is obvious by polling and other matrix that, in America at least, the less government ideal still holds the majority status though it has lost its once overwhelming dominance in the past century as progressiveism has infiltrated our culture. What is occurring now is a battle for the soul of the America ideal which is basically that man can rule himself without subjugating basic human liberties to a parental governing structure. Do governments exist to serve people or are the people the servants of their government? Both the Soviet and United States constitutions claimed the former but only one was written to promote and insure it.
One might wonder how it is that the majority view so often looses the battle to the minority view in this contest betweemn government authority versus individual liberty? There are many reasons but the most obvious is this, people do what they love. The people who love the idea of government control gravitate towards government while those who do not care for government control avoid government, on both sides of the political spectrum by the way. Those who oppose government control of the individual who do enter government are in effect working within and promoting ideals which are contrary and antithetical to the very nature of the institution in which they operate. This too is why so many small government advocates are swallowed up and become defenders to the very system they initially opposed. It is why many DC conservative pundits and politicians loose sight of the ideals that they profess to embrace and instead become cynical defenders of the status quo, having been absorbed into a process driven world rather than a principled one.
What is the solution? How do we get back to the American ideal of the key to that self evident truth of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness being the only true goal of a government for its citizens? It is as simple as it will be difficult to attain, as difficult as it was for founding generation to achieve. This generation must re-establish the Constitution as the law of the nation and hold our elected representatives at all levels accountable to the oath they swear to it. We must also in every way possible explain how important this is to the people who do not understand that their very freedom and their children's freedom is at stake-because it is.
Our Bill of Rights is only as good as those who are willing to stand up for it and to defend the the Constitution which defends those rights, otherwise it is just worthless words on a paper.