Friday, August 28, 2009

On Liberty and the Constitution

It seems these days that Liberty isn't spoken of much.

No wonder so many are willing to give it up for the shadowy sense of security they believe government control over health care, industry, and welfare offers. They don't even know what Liberty is, let alone what it means to their ways of life, their pasts, their futures.

So let's talk about Liberty. Capital L Liberty.

The founders, in their wisdom and from their vast stores of knowledge (to tell you the truth, folks, they'd put today's college graduates to shame with the level of learning they had achieved by age 16 or so) declared that humankind, merely by existing, possesses three rights--Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness--and that these rights are granted not by man, but by God, or by the cosmos, or by existence itself if you're an atheist.

Life is easily explained. We have the right to physical existence, and anyone who takes a life NOT in defense of his OWN life violates the right of another. Since God grants us life AND the power to create new life, I believe that this right extends to the unborn as well, and that abortion is acceptable when the mother's right to life is in danger or when her Liberty has been violated through rape or incest.

The Pursuit of Happiness is probably the least easily explained of the three. According to the founders, as INTENDED by the founders, we define the Pursuit of Happiness as the Liberty to live in the style to which we can achieve through the free exercise of living, working, buying, selling, loving, worshipping, etc. A simple but effective explanation is "the freedom to buy, the freedom to sell, the freedom to try, the freedom to fail." It does NOT mean that happiness is guaranteed. It does NOT mean that happiness is dependent upon anyone (or anyone's efforts) but ourselves. The Pursuit of Happiness is, by the founders, tied heavily with the attainment and manipulation of property--including not only realty, but anything we create or purchase or develop. We could, theoretically, include skills and education. Anything that we earn or produce through our own efforts is our property.

Now on to Liberty. What is liberty? Another term for it might be Agency. It is the right to self-determination. The right to make our own choices. It is ALSO the right to either benefit from or be punished by the consequences for those choices. Consequences are consequences. They can be good or bad.

Choice à Consequence.

Consequence is more understandable in light of Newton's Third Law: To every action there is an equal and opposite REaction. Every choice we make has a consequence. Sometimes it may SEEM that the consequence is disproportionate to the choice (for example, a paper cut hurts WAY worse than it really ought to and sometimes people don't get paid as much as they're worth, and often child molesters get off WAY too easy), but for the most part it all evens out in the end. You must admit, however, that if you make a BIG mistake, you pay BIG consequences. Murder gets you a lifetime in jail or potentially execution. This is called justice, and justice dictates that Newton's Third Law will be fulfilled completely. Is it always? Not always in this life or sphere of existence, and not always in ways that are apparent to us. But Newton's Law is always fulfilled.

It is upon this principle that our justice system is founded, and it is upon this principle that our justice system should operate. Does it always? No. Because people are imperfect. Should we completely overhaul the justice system to make up for the shortfall. No. The SYSTEM is as humanly perfect as it can be. It's not the system that fails. It's the people IN the system. We can't take out the people. We have to work with them and make the best of things.

It is also upon the principle of Liberty that our Constitution was written.

Don't be stupid enough to make the mistake of believing that the Constitution was written primarily to establish government. Government was a given. The founders KNEW they needed government. Government is a necessary evil that has existed in some form or another since the very dawn of man (and I'm talking WAY before the Mesopotamians) for the very purpose of protecting Life (Og the Caveman led his people in protecting themselves from Grog the Caveman and HIS clan), Liberty (Og the Caveman knew that his people needed to NOT be Grog the Caveman's slaves), and the Pursuit of Happiness (Og the Caveman knew that his people needed to prosper as much as possible to survive, so he set up a system by which his people knew when and where to hunt and fish--all while staying away from Grog the Caveman's hunting and fishing grounds).

But government, because it is administered by imperfect men (meaning humans), is a dangerous thing. Men (meaning humans) are greedy and ambitious and idealistic. They often neglect to think with the parts of their brains that enlist restraint. They DO use those parts of their brains that help them justify their decisions.

As a writer I've learned that the best bad guys in stories are the ones who believe with their whole hearts that their cause is just, that they rape, steal, murder, and oppress for the good of someone or other--not just themselves. They are convinced that raping, stealing, murdering, and oppressing are crucial to the survival of their nation/way of life/philosophy, therefore they are justified--and they're usually REALLY good at convincing others of their rightness. Hitler was fervent in his zeal that what he was doing was not only right but ordained by God. There are STILL people living in Germany who love their Fuhrer. Saddam Hussein, too. Even crazy Nero. No man acts purely out of evil. They act out of conviction. It's just that sometimes that conviction runs counter to what is good and right and just--to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

With that in mind, let's turn back to the Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States was written to put restraints on government, to prevent government from interfering with the Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness of the people. Talk about conviction. These crazy bunch of guys actually believed this document was a model and example for the whole world! Imagine! Liberty for everyone!! What a concept.

At any rate, after 222 years, what have we done with their efforts?

We have become the most prosperous and safe and free society this world has ever seen. Ever. Bar none.

However, we have digressed a long way from the original intent of the document. Far enough that the Constitution itself is in imminent danger of splintering into a pile of useless fragments that mean nothing to an ill-informed and government-dependent people.

The federal government has SO far overstepped the bounds established for it by the Constitution and the founders that it is in real danger of morphing into a tyranny--if it has not done so already.

So the question is posed--are we a Constitutional nation or are we not? Do we believe that the Constitution is the greatest document produced by man or do we not? Do we believe that our nation is the greatest in the world or do we not? Do we believe in the principles of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness or do we not?

If the answer to these questions is NOT, then it is time to simply scrap the Constitution and replace it with whatever we might think is better. I personally don't think our present system is significantly better than what was drafted in 1787. (Many will say that the amendments that provided freedom to the slaves and voting rights for all are an improvement, but, in reality, they weren't needed. They were already in there, just not lived by the people the way they should have been.) In fact, I think the way our government operates today is SO far from what the founders intended as to make the Constitution almost unrecognizable. So why NOT scrap it?

Because it's good, and it's right, and living closely to its precepts will make us safer, free-er and more prosperous than anything else on earth.


The question to ask yourself is this:

Do I enjoy more or less personal liberty than my grandparents did? Think this over carefully before you decide. The answer does not depend on whether your life is easier than your grandparents'. Ease of life is not a measure of liberty. Think about the regulations you must operate under at every turn. The fees and taxes you pay for services you would not buy for yourself if it were left to you. Think of the things you can and cannot do on or with your own property.

Are you free-er?

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