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The internet is an interesting thing. You can be communicating with somebody across town today, somebody in another state tonight, and somebody on the other side of the world tomorrow, all with equal ease. In fact if their e-mail address doesn't show it, and you don't know how to read that routing gobbledygook at the top of the message, you can be doing one of those three things and not know which one it is.
I guess that fits somebody's definition of a Global Village.
The Village appears to be Global in more ways than just that. People from various places around the world (the latest one was an Australian) have pointed out to me that what's going on politically in the United States -- the seemingly inexorable Nazification of a once-free civilization -- is going on practically everywhere else, as well.
Sadly, it's true. Almost every day the news is filled with clear indications that -- to any extent that they weren't always that way -- governments everywhere around the world have suddenly gotten too big for their breeches. Every day you read about the choke-chain being tightened a little more around everybody's throat. Fingerprint records failed to violate the fundamental human right to privacy and anonymity sufficiently, so now they're planning to start taking DNA samples at birth.
More and more spy cameras are going up everywhere every time you turn around (Not-So-Great-Britain holds first place for that variety of lunacy just now) and facial recognition software gets better and better. Which is to say, from a freedom-friendly viewpoint, worse and worse.
For a long time now we've all had to obtain -- and often pay dearly for -- all sorts of permission from the government to do all the ordinary things that living, and improving our lives, requires, from owning and driving a car, to building and maintaining a house, to keeping housepets. In Singapore, it's illegal to be caught chewing gum. A driver's license, once a simple certificate of proficiency, now threatens to become -- as our credit cards and telephone records and Internet activity have -- a vile leash, an observer of everywhere we go, everything we do, approved or not, and a potential witness against us.
Meanwhile, politicians and bureaucrats positively ache to tattoo our kids as if they were already the concentration camp inmates the government plans for them to be someday. Or they want to inject radio transponders under their skin -- and how long will it be before such a device can deliver a healthy shock if you won't do whatever's required of you? Much that we buy today has been similarly lowjacked; virtually all of our personal electronics have been redesigned to government specifications to betray us whenever the government wishes to track us down.
Everybody I discuss this situation with dislikes it intensely (I don't know that many "useful idiots") but nobody appears to know what to do about it. I do know that the only hope we have is the Internet, but so do the badguys. New York's Commissioner of Police has reported that the InterNet is "the new Afghanistan" where Muslims are perfectly free to radicalize American youth and turn them into terrorists. The problem, he says, is that you can't actually do anything about such communication because, until a certain point, nobody has committed a crime.
Apparently he wants to arrest people before they commit a crime. Wouldn't it be infinitely better to teach -- and behave consistently with -- a set of values that our kids couldn't be talked out of by anybody?
I'm just old enough so that I've heard every bit of this garbage before -- only the last time, it was the Communists who were going to kill us and cook us and eat us. Of course the real threat to America is the Commissioner, himself -- and all of the other vicious parasites like him who depend on human cowardice and stupidity to write their paychecks -- not his imaginary youth-radicalizing digital Muslims. Listening to this man -- giving him any credence or credibility at all -- is how the light of civilization starts to go out, all over the world.
I have been thinking about politics -- specifically, the politics of individual liberty -- for almost half a century and after all that thinking, I am convinced of one thing. None of this would be happening if the Founding Fathers hadn't made one simple, fundamental, possibly fatal mistake: not writing a stringent penalty clause into the Bill of Rights.
Forget "stringent" -- how about "draconian"?
If, for example, the first time Abraham Lincoln had attempted to suspend the right of habeas corpus, or initiated an income tax or military conscription, officers from the Department of Bill of Rights Enforcement had frog-marched him out of his office in belly-chains, manacles, and leg-irons, our subsequent history would have been very different.
You can make up similar scenarios about politicians like Teddy Roosevelt, who hated the Constitution because it got in the way of his Progressive ambitions, or Woodrow Wilson, another Progressive, who used World War I as an excuse to rape the Bill of Rights, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did much the same and more, including outlawing the possession of gold, or Harry Truman, who killed a quarter of a million individuals with a single signature and used the army to break strikes, or Richard Nixon, who believed that firearms in private hands are "an abomination", or Lyndon Baines Johnson, who persecuted his critics untill they killed themselves, and had people's mail opened by the post Office, or Jimmy Carter, either of the George Bushes, Bill Clinton, or any of the other "great men" in our bloodsoaked history who've based their "legacies" on using the Bill of Rights for toilet paper.
If violating any of the first ten amendments to the Constitution -- even a little -- meant they'd automatically be humiliated and thrown into jail, they'd probably never have run for office in the first place, and history would not have been the same at all.
Happily, I do know how to get from here to there in reasonably short order, and that's by organizing an International Bill Of Rights Union.
There is plenty for such an organization to do. To begin with, without without anybody's help, you could go the the website of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. At http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/bor.htm, you'll find the Bill of Rights translated into fifteen languages so far. If you have an Aunt Bogdana, she might enjoy reading the Bill of Rights translated into her native Romanian. Otherhandwise, if she's your Grandma Beliita, she might like to translate it for JPFO into Chechen.
You'll also find an almost unknown Preamble to the Bill of Rights, explaining that they were written and ratified because: " ... a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers ... " How strange: I never saw that in public school, did you?
Members of an International Bill of Rights Union could seek the adoption and reaffirmation, of the Bill of Rights at the state, county, and municipal levels -- or at the equivalent levels in other member countries. The last time I counted, there were something like 3088 counties in this country, so the undertaking could go on for many decades, during which everybody will come to a new appreciation of the document.
Activists within an International Bill Of Rights Union might even try persuading corporations -- or any private organization (fraternal groups, for example, whose members routinely start their meetings by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance) -- to adopt and affirm the Bill of Rights.
Another worthy project would be a revision of the formal oath that politicians are supposed to take before assuming office, to mention -- and perhaps even to read aloud -- each article of the Bill of Rights separately. Imagine the hilarity when Hillary or Chucky or Nancy or Chris choke over the phrase "the right of the People to keep and bear arms."
The ultimate goal, however, of any International Bill Of Rights Union must always be the correction of the Founding Fathers' two century old mistake by writing and ratifying an effectively stringent penalty clause for politicians who violate the highest law of the land.
An International Bill Of Rights Union should be based upon certain principles. The first is that the Bill of Rights means what it says, and not what some lawyer, judge, or socialist academic can twist it into.
Judging by what we know of the Founding Fathers, the Bill of Rights was clearly meant to be read and understood by everybody, not just by those same lawyers, judges, and socialist academics who almost invariably claim that it doesn't mean what we all know perfectly well it does.
The Bill of Rights must be subjected to no "interpretation" of any kind except in terms of the original intent of the Founding Fathers, a group of individuals had just barely defeated the most overbearing, ruthless, and dangerously violent government in the history of the world. Even the British people were having trouble with it at the time.
The Bill of Rights represents an historic bargain between those who advocated a strong central government -- and whose political ideas and wishes are expressed in the main body of the Constitution -- and those who did not. Without the Bill of Rights, the Constitution ceases to be valid; any legitimate authority that derives from it ceases to exist.
Importantly, there has never been any legal provision for setting aside the Bill of Rights in an "emergency". To do so is a violation of a politician's oath of office and a crime. Nor is it up to government to regulate or limit the Bill of Rights the way that former Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed could be done with regard to the Second Amendment.
Ashcroft, you may recall, briefly made a big hero of himself (to those who don't think clearly or have a habit of grasping at straws) when he announced that the Second Amendment does. indeed, protect an individual right -- which the government may regulate whenever it feels an itch. That's the same protection, I'm given to understand, provided by the Canadian constitution, which says, yes, Canadians have rights -- subject to cancellation at their government's slightest whim.
Of course a regulated "right" isn't any kind of a right at all; a right is something that's inherent simply in your existence as a human being. A regulated "right" is nothing more than a government-granted privilege you usually have to beg for, and may be taken back at any time.
That, believe it or not, is the sole contention in the celebrated Parker case, in which a lower court has ruled that Washington D.C.'s handgun ban is an unconstitutional violation of an individual right protected by the Second Amendment. Now the enemies of liberty -- many of them afraid, no doubt, that laws like New York's Sullivan Act will be next -- are headed for the Supreme Court where they hope to see the right to own and carry weapons converted back into a collectivized privilege.
Another point: although many of us may have strong feelings with regard to certain issues, an International Bill of Rights Union cannot -- must not -- entangle itself with unrelated subjects (especially those that have traditionally divided the general freedom movement) like abortion, immigration, or global warming. It must always remain on-topic: the adoption, affirmation, and enforcement of the Bill of Rights.
But why, I now pretend to hear you asking, should the inhabitants of other countries be interested in adopting the American Bill of Rights?
In the first place, most of them are probably even more unhappy with today's newly-fascistic politics than Americans are, and more interested in limiting the power of their politicians. Although we often think of America as a young country, our 218-year-old Bill of Rights is the political basis for one of the world's oldest continuous governments.
Individuals in other countries who understand economics know that the Bill of Rights is the source -- or at least a manifestation of the source -- of America's historically unprecedented prosperity and progress.
Properly respected, the Bill of Rights is a potential deterrent both to runaway authority and runaway democracy. It's also a far more desirable alternative to -- possibly a preventive or a remedy for -- the involuntary democratization and forcible "regime changes" that are all the rage today. Thus, from a non-American viewpoint, it could help to get the United States back under control again, which, in their terms, means not dropping bombs on them or starving their children to death.
Who needs a corrupt, freedom-hating United Nations cluttering the political landscape? Who needs a European Union or a North American Union? What the world truly needs is an International Bill of Rights Union?
Some closing thoughts:
The Founding Fathers didn't say that your church or your religion must be recognized by the government before it's real; the Founding Fathers didn't mean for some kinds of communications to be permissable and others to be banned; the Founding Fathers didn't say you need a permit to get together, and then only under police supervision. They said that we all have a right to worship, speak, and assemble as we will.
The Founding Fathers didn't say that the people have a right to keep and bear arms -- subject to regulation by the government -- the Founding Fathers, pure and simple, wanted us to own and carry weapons. "Take a gun with you on every walk," was the way Thomas Jefferson put it.
The Founding Fathers didn't say minions of the government could search us if they were sufficiently sneaky about it, or that they could search us if they didn't touch us, or that they could search us if we wanted to travel freely by whatever means. The Founding Fathers, pure and simple, didn't want the government to know what's in our pockets.
This essay has focused mostly on the United States, but we should consider, for a moment, the effect a successful International Bill of Rights Union might have in other places, too. Would Vladimir Putin or the Russian Mafia still run Russia? Would Castro's blabbermouth hand- puppet, Hugo Chavez retain power in Venezuela? And what about the heirs of Mao Tse Tung? The question need only be asked in order to be answered.
And, given the fact that every major mass-atrocity in recent history has been preceded by a period of weapons confiscation -- as opposed to the Second Amendment's mandate for a universally armed populace -- it could mean there will never be another genocide, ever again
If that seems like a good idea, and you'd like to do something to make it happen, you might start by sending this essay to everybody you know. We have a lot of work ahead of us, getting from here to there, and we're unlikely to see the end of it, ourselves, although if we do our job right, our children or grandchildren will. And in a society built on the Bill of Rights, a society of peace, prosperity, progress, and above all, on freedom, maybe we'll still be around to accept their thanks.
Or maybe we'll have taken off for the stars.
A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, L. Neil Smith is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.
Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.
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