Archive for the ‘The Constitution’ Category
The Only Path To Tomorrow
By Ayn Rand
Readers Digest, January 1944, pp. 88-90
The greatest threat to mankind and civilization is the spread of the totalitarian philosophy. Its best ally is not the devotion of its followers but the confusion of its enemies. To fight it, we must understand it.
Totalitarianism is collectivism. Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group — whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called “the common good.´´
Throughout history, no tyrant ever rose to power except on the claim of representing “the common good.´´ Napoleon “served the common good´´ of France. Hitler is “serving the common good´´ of Germany. Horrors which no man would dare consider for his own selfish sake are perpetrated with a clear conscience by “altruists´´ who justify themselves by-the common good.
No tyrant has ever lasted long by force of arms alone. Men have been enslaved primarily by spiritual weapons. And the greatest of these is the collectivist doctrine that the supremacy of the state over the individual constitutes the common good. No dictator could rise if men held as a sacred faith the conviction that they have inalienable rights of which they cannot be deprived for any cause whatsoever, by any man whatsoever, neither by evildoer nor supposed benefactor.
This is the basic tenet of individualism, as opposed to collectivism. Individualism holds that man is an independent entity with an inalienable right to the pursuit of his own happiness in a society where men deal with one another as equals.
The American system is founded on individualism. If it is to survive, we must understand the principles of individualism and hold them as our standard in any public question, in every issue we face. We must have a positive credo, a clear consistent faith.
We must learn to reject as total evil the conception that the common good is served by the abolition of individual rights. General happiness cannot be created out of general suffering and self-immolation. The only happy society is one of happy individuals. One cannot have a healthy forest made up of rotten trees.
The power of society must always be limited by the basic, inalienable rights of the individual.
The right of liberty means man’s right to individual action, individual choice, individual initiative and individual property. Without the right to private property no independent action is possible.
The right to the pursuit of happiness means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own, private, personal happiness and to work for its achievement. Each individual is the sole and final judge in this choice. A man’s happiness cannot be prescribed to him by another man or by any number of other men.
These rights are the unconditional, personal, private, individual possession of every man, granted to him by the fact of his birth and requiring no other sanction. Such was the conception of the founders of our country, who placed individual rights above any and all collective claims. Society can only be a traffic policeman in the intercourse of men with one another.
From the beginning of history, two antagonists have stood face to face, two opposite types of men: the Active and the Passive. The Active Man is the producer, the creator, the originator, the individualist. His basic need is independence — in order to think and work. He neither needs nor seeks power over other men — nor can he be made to work under any form of compulsion. Every type of good work — from laying bricks to writing a symphony — is done by the Active Man. Degrees of human ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence and initiative determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man.
The Passive Man is found on every level of society, in mansions and in slums, and his identification mark is his dread of independence. He is a parasite who expects to be taken care of by others, who wishes to be given directives, to obey, to submit, to be regulated, to be told. He welcomes collectivism, which eliminates any chance that he might have to think or act on his own initiative.
When a society is based on the needs of the Passive Man it destroys the Active; but when the Active is destroyed, the Passive can no longer be cared for. When a society is based on the needs of the Active Man, he carries the Passive ones along on his energy and raises them as he rises, as the whole society rises. This has been the pattern of all human progress.
Some humanitarians demand a collective state because of their pity for the incompetent or Passive Man. For his sake they wish to harness the Active. But the Active Man cannot function in harness. And once he is destroyed, the destruction of the Passive Man follows automatically. So if pity is the humanitarians’ first consideration, then in the name of pity, if nothing else, they should leave the Active Man free to function, in order to help the Passive. There is no other way to help him in the long run.
The history of mankind is the history of the struggle between the Active Man and the Passive, between the individual and the collective. The countries which have produced the happiest men, the highest standards of living and the greatest cultural advances have been the countries where the power of the collective — of the government, of the state — was limited and the individual was given freedom of independent action. As examples: The rise of Rome, with its conception of law based on a citizen’s rights, over the collectivist barbarism of its time. The rise of England, with a system of government based on the Magna Carta, over collectivist, totalitarian Spain. The rise of the United States to a degree of achievement unequaled in history — by grace of the individual freedom and independence which our Constitution gave each citizen against the collective.
While men are still pondering upon the causes of the rise and fall of civilizations, every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action. Collectivism is the ancient principle of savagery. A savage’s whole existence is ruled by the leaders of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
We are now facing a choice: to go forward or to go back.
Collectivism is not the “New Order of Tomorrow.´´ It is the order of a very dark yesterday. But there is a New Order of Tomorrow. It belongs to Individual Man — the only creator of any tomorrows humanity has ever been granted.
Watch Your Fellow Citizens Agree To Hand Private Homes Over To The Military
by Sam Rolley
“No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” — 3rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
California prankster and liberty activist Mark Dice has once again illustrated the average American’s abysmal lack of knowledge about the U.S. Constitution and the historical reasons for its Articles and Amendments in a YouTube video wherein he gets several people to sign a petition to allow for the military to commandeer citizens’ homes.
“We want to repeal the 3rd Amendment to keep the housing prices down for the military folks… just support Obama and support the troops,” Dice said in an effort to get one pedestrian to sign the petition.
“You know, repealing the 3rd Amendment will provide a lot more options for where the military can stay,” Dice continued as the man eagerly signed.
Another Constitutionally oblivious man signed the petition as Dice made the goal of repealing the 3rd Amendment crystal clear, “These military folks are clean and orderly people, so they won’t dirty up your house too much whilst we eliminate the 3rd Amendment and you can quarter them in your house if they just want to come in.”
“By repealing the 3rd Amendment, we could increase their housing options. Maybe they could do some house sitting and things in a house that they choose; just kind of getting rid of that old Amendment that was written back in the 1700s.” Dice told another young couple who also signed the petition. “We’re just trying to modernize the Bill Of Rights.”
Two other young women signed Dices petition with a chorus of “oh yeah, definitely” and “I agree,” after Dice’s appeal: “They should be able to come into your house and they can quarter there forever if they want to.”
King George III routinely required that American colonists quarter British soldiers in the private homes during colonial times based on the passage of three laws by the British Parliament.
Parliament ordered that British soldiers be housed in barracks, public houses, private commercial property and uninhabited homes with a 1765 law. That law was followed by the more oppressive Quartering Act of 1774, which further required colonists to house troops in private homes.
Early Americans so detested having British soldiers taking over the homes they had worked so hard to build and maintain that “…quartering large bodies of armed troops among us…” was included among the 27 grievances against King George in the Declaration of Independence.
History of the Constitution
During the Revolutionary War, the 13 colonies united to free themselves from England’s rule. After they won their freedom, they were glad they were no longer British, but they were not ready to unite. The states were very different from each other; however, they realized that in order to grow and prosper, they needed the other states. So, delegates from each state got together and a plan for unity was initially submitted to the Second Continental Congress on July 12, 1776. After much debate, on November 15, 1777, the states finally established a “firm league of friendship” that became known as the Articles of Confederation. The Articles, however, did not go into effect until March 1, 1781.
Under the Articles of Confederation, each state remained independent, with a single vote, and there was no real power behind the central government. Within 2 years, it became obvious that the Articles of Confederation was weak – many people were in debt and states were printing money that was worthless. It was decided that the states should get together and fix the Articles and unite the states as one nation.
Major challenges to governing through the Articles of Confederation:
- Congress (the central government) was made up of delegates chosen by the states and could conduct foreign affairs, make treaties, declare war, maintain an army and a navy, coin money, and establish post offices. However, measures passed by Congress had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states.
- Congress was severely limited in its powers. It could not raise money by collecting taxes; it had no control over foreign commerce; it could pass laws but could not force the states to comply with them. Thus, the government was dependent on the willingness of the various states to carry out its measures, and often the states refused to cooperate.
- The articles were virtually impossible to amend, so problems could not be corrected.
Constitutional Convention Quick Facts:
- President of the Constitutional Convention: George Washington
- Location: The State House (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), known as Independence Hall
- Oldest Delegate: Benjamin Franklin, 81
- Youngest Delegate: Jonathan Dayton, 26
- Average Age of Delegates: 42
- Remains today, the world’s oldest written Constitution.
The Constitutional Convention
A stronger central administration was needed if the nation was going to survive. Delegates from each state (except Rhode Island) began arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in May 1787. At first, only Virginia and Pennsylvania were represented. It took some of the delegates months to arrive. In fact, the last delegate to arrive showed up on August 6th!
Early on, Gov. Edmund Randolph (Virginia) presented the Virginia Plan, which provided for a “national” government with three branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.
- Executive Branch: Provides leadership and enforces laws.
- Legislative Branch: Makes laws for the nation.
- Judicial Branch: Explains and interprets laws.
Many of the delegates were outraged at the word “national,” not wanting the states to lose power. There was also debate between small states and large states about representation in the national government. Individual rights over state rights were also debated, as was the head of government. In the end, most of theVirginia Plan was used; however, it would take a “Great Compromise.”
Aspects of the “Great Compromise”
- A bicameral legislature made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives settled the debate over representation in the national government. Small states feared they would be ignored if representation was based on population. Large states, however, believed that their larger populations deserved more of a voice. Under the two house system, each party would be represented in a balance of power. Each state would be equally represented in the Senate, with two delegates, while representation in the House of Representatives would be based upon population.
- Commerce and slavery were two issues that divided the colonies between North and South. Southern states exported goods and raw materials and feared the Northern states would take unfair advantage. The South finally agreed not to require two-thirds passage in both houses to regulate commerce. The North agreed that the slave trade could continue until 1808. Slaves would be taxed at not more than $10 each when brought in. In addition, slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for representation in the House of Representatives.
- Nationality requirements and provisions for amending and ratifying the Constitution were also addressed. It was decided that Senators would have to be citizens for nine years, while Representatives only seven. The President must be native-born. A system was set up whereby changes, or amendments, could be made to the Constitution. Nine of the 13 states must vote to ratify the Constitution before it could become law.
The Constitution was finally finished on September 12, 1787 and made public. It did not contain any sort of Bill of Rights, even though that question had been heavily debated. Of the 42 delegates still present at the convention when it was finished, 39 signed the Constitution. Only Gov. Edmund Randolph (Virginia), George Mason (Virginia), and Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts) declined to sign. Each states was then given six months to convene and vote on the proposed Constitution.
During these six months, there was much public debate. People in favor of the Constitution were calledFederalists while those opposed were called Anti-Federalists.” James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote a series of articles in favor of the Constitution that became known as The Federalist Papers. Some of these articles explained about the system of “checks and balances” in the Constitution wherein no one branch of government would have more power than the other two. These articles helped sway public opinion. The Constitution was finally ratified and became legal on June 21, 1788.
The Order of Ratification
1 Delaware December 7, 1787 2 Pennsylvania December 12, 1787 3 New Jersey December 18, 1787 4 Georgia January 2, 1788 5 Connecticut January 9, 1788 6 Massachusetts February 6, 1788 7 Maryland April 28, 1788 8 South Carolina May 23, 1788 9 New Hampshire June 21, 1788
(With this state’s signing, the Constitution became legal)
10 Virginia June 25, 1788 11 New York July 26, 1788 12 North Carolina November 21, 1788
(Initially voted against ratification)
13 Rhode Island May 29, 1790
(Did not even hold a constitutional convention)
The Bill of Rights
Because there was so much interest and debate regarding individual freedoms, a Bill of Rights became law on December 15, 1791. Twelve amendments were proposed but only 10 were passed. The Bill of Rights consisted of the Constitution’s first 10 amendments and included freedom of speech, religion, the press, peaceful assembly, and rights to jury trials.
Amendments to the Constitution
Since the original 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights as they are collectively known, 17 more amendments have been passed. The most recent, Amendment XXVII, was ratified May 2, 1992. Interestingly, it was originally proposed on September 25, 1789 and was one of the two that were not passed as part of the Bill of Rights. Amendment XXVII has to do with the compensation, or paying of a salary, to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Other amendments have included:
- Amendment XIII, ratified on December 6, 1865, abolished slavery.
- Amendment XV, ratified on February 3, 1870, wherein “the right of the citizens…to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition or servitude.”
- Amendment XIX, ratified on August 8, 1920, which did much the same thing as Amendment XV, but was based on sex, basically giving women the right to vote.
Only one amendment, Amendment XVIII, ratified on January 6, 1919, prohibiting “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” was ever repealed. Amendment XXI, ratified on December 5, 1933, was the amendment that repealed Amendment XVIII.
SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Case On Internet Sales Tax
by Sam Rolley
Cyber Monday shoppers who chose to shop online in part to avoid paying sales tax may have dodged that bullet for the last time. The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case brought by Amazon and Overstock.com that concerned a dispute over sales tax between online retailers and New York and other States seeking revenues from online sales.
SCOTUSblog explains the challenge thusly: “Both Internet retailers contended that they had no presence in the state, and thus should be exempt from taxes on purchases from them by New York customers. New York’s highest state court, the Court of Appeals, ruled, however, that they were subject to tax in New York because they had contracts with local affiliates that generated customers for them through Internet links to the Overstock and Amazon websites.”
With the high court’s refusal to hear the case, the path is cleared for Congress to impose taxation and other regulation on Internet retailers similar to the Internet Fairness Act passed by the Senate earlier this year. The Act requires more than 10,000 jurisdictions to collect sales tax for government.
Wrestler turned conservative columnist Glenn Jacobs wrote at the time:
By giving state governments the power to tax Internet retailers, the Marketplace Fairness Act further undermines our already moribund system of federalism. One of the key components of federalism is competition between the states. The idea is that the better the state, the more attractive it will be to individuals and businesses. Folks have the ability to “vote with their feet” for the system of government and level of freedom that they prefer. Conceivably, if on-line retailers were capturing sales from brick-and-mortar retailers due to sales taxes, the brick-and-mortar retailers would pressure local officials to lower their tax rates to allow them to be more competitive or, if possible, move to states with lower tax rates. We see this happening all the time when consumers go across state lines to buy products that are cheaper in an adjacent state due to lower taxes there. The Internet represents another competitor for state governments in regard to commerce and taxes. Unfortunately, if there is one thing politicians won’t tolerate, it’s competition.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to heart the case will uphold a ruling from the New York Court of Appeals conceding that “the Internet tax is constitutional on its face,” though the Supreme Court has previously ruled that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment forbids a State from imposing sales tax on an out-of-State seller with no physical presence in the State.
Amazon said in a statement following the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case: “The Supreme Court already has addressed the sales tax issue, saying in Quill that Congress can and should act to resolve it. The Marketplace Fairness Act now pending before Congress would protect states’ rights to make their own revenue policy choices while allowing them to collect more than a fraction of the revenue that’s already owed.”
In United States v Bond, The Supreme Court Could Be Ruling On The Safety Of All American Rights
October 31, 2013 by Sam Rolley
On more than one occasion President Barack Obama or a top Administration official has lamented that the Commander in Chief is not a king or a dictator and is, therefore, unable to ram his progressive policies down the greater American public’s collective throat as quickly as his liberal supporters would like. And on several occasions, the sole hurdle halting the President in his dash toward liberal utopia—or totalitarian hell, depending on whom you ask — has been a pesky 226-year-old document called the Constitution of the United States of America.
But the Obama Justice Department is working to change that.
Attorneys at the Justice Department are currently working to advance a Supreme Court argument that the Federal government should be allowed to invoke international treaties as legal basis for policies that government officials are unable to put into place because they conflict with the Nation’s Constitution.
The Supreme Court is slated to begin hearing oral arguments in United States v Bond early next month — a case in which the court will determine, according to SCOTUSblog:
(1) Whether the Constitution’s structural limits on Federal authority impose any constraints on the scope of Congress’ authority to enact legislation to implement a valid treaty, at least in circumstances where the Federal statute, as applied, goes far beyond the scope of the treaty, intrudes on traditional state prerogatives, and is concededly unnecessary to satisfy the government’s treaty obligations; and (2) whether the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, 18 U.S.C. § 229, can be interpreted not to reach ordinary poisoning cases, which have been adequately handled by state and local authorities since the Framing, in order to avoid the difficult Constitutional questions involving the scope of and continuing vitality of this Court’s decision in Missouri v Holland.
In short, United States v Bond concerns a woman poisoning her husband’s mistress and, in doing so, violating the international ban on chemical weapons. Per the Constitution, the woman should be prosecuted at the State level — but the Federal government prosecuted her under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act.
That is the same Act that Syrian Dictator Bashir al-Assad is a accused of violating and is the justification that many war-hungry politicians recently used as basis for a military attack on the Syrian government.
The Constitutional question is whether the Federal government can use treaties that Congress has ratified as Federal policy.
A 1920 Supreme Court ruling in Missouri v Holland upheld a treaty requiring the Federal government to enact laws regulating migratory birds after a similar statute was deemed unConstitutional in a lower court. At the time, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that treaty power extends beyond Congress’s regular lawmaking clout.
During a speech at the Heritage Foundation this week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) explained the danger in accepting the Justice Department’s argument that international treaties and Federal policy are intertwined in domestic matters.
“If the broad interpretation of the Missouri v Holland snippet is accurate … you now have a roadmap – if you find the limitations on the Federal government’s authority irksome, any President has a simple path to get around it,” Cruz said. “Find any nation in the world, negotiate a treaty agreeing to do what you couldn’t do otherwise, and if the Senate ratifies it – and by the way that means you can cut the House of Representatives out of everything – then suddenly the Federal government has authority it didn’t have before.
“That is a radical interpretation of the treaty power. That is what is at issue in Bond: does the treaty power enable the Federal government to circumvent the structural limitations on the authority of the Federal government?” Cruz continued.
If that is the case, the Senator surmised that the President could even go so far as signing a treaty giving away any American rights protected by the Constitution.
“The proposition that the Treaty Clause is a trump card that defeats all of the remaining structural limitations on the Federal government is not a proposition that is logically defensible,” Cruz said.
Andrew Napolitano Explains The Supreme Court’s Worst Decisions
The following post originally appeared on the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s website. It is based on a conversation the Institute had with Judge Andrew Napolitano about the Constitution and the American political system.
Mises Institute: Why is understanding constitutional law and its history important? The text of the document is pretty short, so can’t we just read it for ourselves and know what it says?
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano: The Constitution proclaims itself to be the Supreme Law of the Land. It was written to create, define, and restrain the federal government. If history is prologue, it is important for all concerned about the overreach of the government today to understand how we got to where we are today; and the history of that is essentially a study of the history of the debates over the implementation of the powers set forth in the Constitution.
As for reading the Constitution in order to understand it, that is no doubt what its authors intended. However, as is well known, the big government impulses of those in government have rendered most of the plain language in the Constitution meaningless. Thus, it is nearly impossible to comprehend the meaning of the Constitution without understanding about 200 Supreme Court cases interpreting it.
MI: When it comes to Supreme Court cases, what do you think were some of the most damaging to the cause of liberty?
APN: Without sounding cynical, my answer is: Almost all of them. Here is a short list of the most constitutionally offensive cases: Marbury v. Madison, which establishes the federal government as the final judge of its own power; McCullough v. Maryland, which establishes the primacy of the federal government over the states and establishes the concept of implied federal power; Dred Scott v. Sanford, which establishes the principle that a class of human beings can be defined as non-persons because of an immutable characteristic of birth; Wickard v. Filburn, which permits the Congress to regulate personal, private, and even trivial behavior; Korematsu v. United States, which permits the attribution of guilt and the infliction of punishment based on an immutable characteristic of birth; Roe v. Wade, which permits murder based on the age of the victim; and National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which permits the Congress to tax any event or non-event it wishes.
MI: Are there any easy fixes? Could we just tweak the text of the Constitution in certain places to greatly improve things? If so, what would you change? If not, why not?
APN: Because the Constitution is only as effective as an instrument to guarantee liberty as is the fidelity of those in whose hands it has been reposed for safekeeping to its underlying principles, the short answer is: Have a majority of Supreme Court justices committed to the plain language and original intent of the document, and the preservation of the natural law? However, if I were free to do so, I’d change “We the People …” to “We the States …” I’d define the regulation of interstate commerce as “keeping the movement of goods between merchants across interstate borders regular,” I’d add “explicitly” to the Tenth Amendment, and I’d repeal the 16th and the 17th amendments.
MI: In recent months, the issue of nullification has become important, and it has been actually happening. Colorado, for example, has nullified federal laws about marijuana. Moreover, there have been efforts surrounding provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, and historically, numerous states essentially nullified the federal law behind the national ID card. Are these efforts on firm constitutional ground?
APN: They are on firm historical ground, and firm constitutional ground as the Constitution was understood by those who wrote it.
MI: We’ve been talking about the 1787 Constitution of course, but there was one that came before it, written in 1776, and known as the Articles of Confederation. Many libertarians point to the newer constitution, say it was not an improvement, and that it replaced the more de-centralist Articles. In light of this, should we still be defenders of the current constitution, and if so, why?
APN: I have spent my entire professional career defending the Constitution; and that can be likened to playing catch with jell-o or shoveling against the tide. The Articles of Confederation permitted the states to become tyrants, and the Constitution — as interpreted over the centuries — has permitted the federal government to become tyrannical. The resolution of this dilemma will require the entry into all three branches of the government of persons committed to natural law principles. That means they’d believe in the primacy of the individual over the state and the intrinsic inability of government to do anything beyond enforcing the natural law.