Freedom: It's the Law, Part 1

Freedom: It's the Law
Let's regain our freedom by restoring the Bill of Rights

(Read:  Part 1  Part 2)

As we approach July 4, 2005, Independence Day, a date of great significance to libertarian-Americans, we need a fresh, bold program to reestablish political liberty in this country.

Every generation needs a new revolution.

— Thomas Jefferson(1)

The biggest telltale of our loss of fundamental liberties is the longstanding war on drugs.  That officially corrupt and venal megasystem of prohibition and punishment has resulted in an outrageous loss of life, liberty, and property of millions of Americans.  Collateral damage—exclusive of drive-by shootings of children, gang warfare destroying neighborhoods, police predation—amounts to $500 billion annually.(2)

As a consequence of this hysteria-driven war on consensual behavior: jails overflow, true crimes of murder, theft, and assault surge, and city morgues stack corpses to the ceilings.  Yet you can count on one hand the number of public officials who decry the drug war.  As a telltale sign of loss of liberty, the drug war draws little formal attention.

An ultimate absurdity—perhaps the last straw?—has come lately with a nationwide campaign (financed by money stolen from you and me) to force people to buckle up, to use their seatbelts while driving.  "Click it or ticket" ads abound on national TV, with beefheaded, moralistic state cops stopping and pummeling motorists with large fines for the "crime" of not wearing a seatbelt.  "Wear your seatbelt: it's the law."

And I haven't begun to catalog the vast numbers of other rules inflicted on the public "for your own good," much less describe the vast wealth the state expropriates from honest, working people.  As with the seatbelt campaign, the state takes most of this money for the expressed purpose of destroying your freedom.  Don't forget the Patriot Act, which the federales use to arbitrarily imprison, torture, and kill people they don't like.

When does it stop?  When anyone who questions authority is sent to jail for sedition?  That will be too late, my friends.  And you will be in jail only days after I will.  No, what we need (and what has been put into play with the Rational Review political program [RR]) is a two-by-four upside the statists' heads.  Nonaggressively, for sure... just to get their attention.

The foundation of the RR program and what we're advocating here, as well, is activation, animation, or "enforcement" of the fundamental charter of our political system, the one that explicitly recognizes the gamut of our civil freedoms, the Bill of Rights (BofR).(3)

During the debates in state legislatures on whether to adopt the Constitution, opponents argued that the document as initially proposed would enable central-government tyranny.  The people had just fought a war against English tyranny, forces that violated their civil rights routinely.  Thus, most insisted on a "bill of rights" to broadly secure civilian freedoms and impose strict, severe restrictions on government power.  The concept of individual rights was fully developed in the early colonies, as strongly opposed to "tyranny of the majority" as to despotism of a king.

These ten amendments are set forth below with some elaboration of what they mean today.

Table 1: The Bill of Rights(4)

#

Amendment Text

In Other Words, Notes

1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The state does not compel any religion, nor does it prohibit any religion.  The right of the people to speak, write, and publish is absolute.  As is their right to publicly associate with one another and petition without government approval.

2

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

You have the right of self-protection from criminals and the state, by use of firearms.  No federal law.  No BATF.

3

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.

Not often an issue yet, but soldiers of the government cannot appropriate private property, nor use it without due process.  Might have helped in Waco.

4

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

People have absolute dominion over their own property and persons, and these rights cannot be abridged unless they themselves have violated the property or persons of others—committed a crime.  Even in that case, due process must be observed.

5

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

A crime is generally an aggression on the persons or property of others.  There are very few crimes against the state: essentially treason and breach of trust.  An "infamous crime" is what we generally call a felony.  The states deal with crimes.  This amendment protects those accused of crimes against the state and has later been federalized to protect all citizens against state abuses.  Eminent domain requires public use and just compensation.

6

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

More rights of people accused of crimes, especially jury of one's peers.  The intent of the jury is to provide final protection against enforcement of tyrannical laws.  Juries have the right to judge law and fact, and can throw out bad law—most statutory law is aggressive bad law.  You have the presumption of innocence, the state must prove guilt.  See FIJA.

7

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Not being a Constitutional scholar (yet), my sense of the 7th amendment is common law outranks statutory law and the nonaggression principle trumps any state rules.  You have a right to jury trial for relatively small crimes.

8

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Any felonious punishment for a victimless crime shall be considered a violation of this amendment.

9

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Just because we didn't state the right here doesn't mean you don't have the right.  You have the unspecified right.

10

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The state has no powers not specifically identified in this document.  You have every freedom not specifically denied by this document.

As you can tell, the wording of BofR is plain language.  Everyone can understand it, including Supreme Court judges.  It enshrines the nonaggression principle as the central part of our heritage.  The amendments were also part of the constitutions of most of the state legislatures of the day; more recently the BofR has come to be federalized, that is applicable to state as well as federal jurisdictions.

We intend to hold all public officials to the letter of American fundamental law.  The BofR project, according to the Rational Review political program enacts the following:

  1. Repudiation, repeal, and end to enforcement of any law that conflicts with the BofR.(5)
  2. Trial by jury of anyone who attempts to create or enforce a law that conflicts with the BofR; upon conviction, punish miscreants according to USC Title 18, sections 241 and 242.
  3. Resist popularly all laws that conflict with the BofR, in accordance with the Zero Aggression Principle.
  4. Establish new zero-aggression government assuming existing government(s) fail to abide by the BofR or act to suppress liberties further.
  5. Implement such voluntary polity through the libertarian movement and protect these new institutions of free men by all nonaggressive means necessary.

In addition to the program outline in the Rational Review site, a Bill of Rights Enforcement page has been composed by renowned libertarian author L. Neil Smith that eloquently argues the project [Smith site gone. --Ed.].  Make no mistake about it, we're going up against an empire that puts Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith to shame.  Let's share the love and make it happen.

We at Reason to Freedom have derived some additional specific ideas to establish the BofR and hasten the day of our liberation.  The central concept among these is to form an integrated network of free American citizens' associations that monitor and record public-official behavior vis a vis the BofR and recommend appropriate response for infractions.

By organizing along lines of existing political subdivisions, the associations can readily be transformed into free citizens' representative governments.  This may be necessary if existing criminal governments fail to reform themselves according to their Constitutional charter.

Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse!

Continued in Part 2

Read:  Part 1  Part 2



  1. This sentiment resounds through out history, and can also be found as, "Every generation must rewin its own freedom," in Gatewood Galbraith's The Last Free Man in America, Outskirts Press, 2004.  Which Galbraith attributes to his journalism professor, Dwight Teeter, at the University of Kentucky. back to text
  2. McWilliams, Peter.  Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do, Prelude Press, 1996, p. 146.  (Peter McWilliams was wrongly killed by agents of the federal government.) back to text
  3. The remainder of the Constitution is highly important (and restrictive of government power), but the BofR program needs to focus on the most basic rights identified for the people in the Constitution—especially because these rights have been so grossly violated by governments of all levels. back to text
  4. An integrated radical scholarly appraisal of the Bill of Rights I could not immediately locate in web surfing.  An educational outreach organization, the Bill of Rights Institute, has been working with high schools, but I don't recognize any leading libertarian scholars in their masthead.  (And we don't want to softpeddle the BofR.)  Check the Cato Institute and other libertarian thinktanks.  As the Bill of Rights movement picks up steam, multiple sources will develop to spread the good word. back to text
  5. I'd like to add here all individuals convicted of violating laws that violate the BofR—such as sex laws, drug laws, gun laws, any laws against peaceful consensual behavior among adults—are hereby formally declared absolved of any crime.  Their records shall be expunged, and those who arrested, prosecuted, and convicted these innocent people shall, in due course, be prosecuted for violating the BofR. back to text