Rights and Consequences

Magically, seemingly every day, new "rights" are proclaimed by Liberal-Progressive-Democrats.  Generally Obama and Company will simultaneously announce that new "investments" will be needed to insure that these new rights can be exercised.

Many Tea Party supporters and conservatives in general, tend to view "rights" as those defined in the Constitution and its amendments.  There is no doubt that this view is incorrect.  The Ninth Amendment reads:

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

Obviously there are rights that the founders recognized as having existence.  Equally as obvious, the founders considered these rights to be too numerous to be identified individually.  Those that are codified in the first eight amendments are listed simply because they were considered too important to risk not being identified.

That being said, the question that must be considered is:  Exactly what is a right? 

The answer to this is not self-evident, nor is it intuitively obvious.  The Random House Dictionary lists sixty-two separate definitions for the word "right" or "rights."  If there are over three score ways to explain what a seemingly simple word, then obviously, in short, easily understood words, it ain't that simple!

Jefferson listed as "rights" only life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.  He preceded this list with the timeless phrase:

...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

What followed those famous words is much less frequently quoted:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

Note that Jefferson didn't say that governments were instituted to grant rights, only to make the citizens secure in their rights.  Government is only a facilitator to insure that we, the citizens, are not deprived of rights that are ours at birth, and do not exist because they were granted by any government or individual. 

This view of government as a facilitator is clearly shown in the first eight amendments.  These eight are all written in a way that clearly identifies what the government cannot do.  Not what the government can do, not what the government should do, not what the government would like to do, but what it is expressly forbidden to do. 

Simply reading the First Amendment indicates this negative structure:

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.

"Congress shall make no law..." is about as clear a statement as I can imagine.  Congress cannot limit free speech in any way, whether written, printed, or today, broadcast.  It cannot prohibit or abridge our right to peaceful assembly.  It cannot establish an "official" religion as has been done in so many Muslim dominated nations.

That these are known today by Liberal-Progressive Constitutional scholars as "negative" rights is positively Orwellian.  The phrase suggests that the "negative" rights in the Constitution in some way limits the ordinary citizen's pursuit of happiness, since it tells the government what it cannot do.  The President himself sees this as a flaw in the structure of the Constitution since it doesn't empower the government to take "positive" steps to do things "for" the citizenry.

Once again, considering the man lectured at the University of Chicago on the subject, Obama's willful ignorance of the Constitution, or his inability to understand the reasoning that led to its adoption, are staggering.  The Constitution was never intended to do things "for" the citizenry.  It, as written, has one overall purpose and only one -- it is designed to control and limit the government.  It was written to impede almost all of Obama's desires in order to protect our rights. 

Apparently the President is in disagreement with the Founding Fathers because these limitations or "negative liberties" apply to the government itself, not the ordinary citizen.

It would also seem that Mr. Obama feels that his vision for a transformed America is constrained by a musty, antiquated scrap of parchment that describes his job functions.  After all, the entire Executive function of our government is described in Article II of our Constitution, in only two Sections. 

Article II, Section 1 describes the qualifications for anyone wanting to be president, the method of selecting the president (and vice-president).  Ignoring those paragraphs of Article II, Section 1 that have been superseded by later amendments (namely the 12th, 20th and 25th Amendments) this section plus the three related Amendments is about 1,400 total words. 

Article II, Section 2, on the other hand, describes what the executive is allowed to actually do.  As the name would imply the primary role of the executive branch is to ensure that laws passed by Congress are executed.  He is the Commander-in-Chief of the military.  He has the power to pardon and grant reprieves.  He can make treaties, if the Senate approves.  He can nominate the Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as senior administrators (such as Secretaries of the various executive departments) if the Senate concurs.  This only took the founders a whopping 322 words to describe the President's job. 

It took the founders, and subsequent amendments, almost five times longer to describe how to hire the president than in describing what they'd let him do after he was hired! 

It's as simple as that.  The Constitution is written precisely to cripple any President who wants to do things for us.  Of course, he or she would also then be unable to do things to us. 

Obama's attitude toward the Founders reminds me of a five-year old whining that Mommy is cruel because she wouldn't give him (or her) whatever they wanted the very second that they wanted it.  Well, the appropriate response to the man who is not only leader of the free world, but the "smartest guy in the room" is just this:

"Life is tough, Mr. President.  Then you die.  You can't always have every thing that you want. Live with it!  The rest of us do."

Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran and an independent voter.  Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com/, or he can be contacted directly at james.v.yardley@gmail.com

Magically, seemingly every day, new "rights" are proclaimed by Liberal-Progressive-Democrats.  Generally Obama and Company will simultaneously announce that new "investments" will be needed to insure that these new rights can be exercised.

Many Tea Party supporters and conservatives in general, tend to view "rights" as those defined in the Constitution and its amendments.  There is no doubt that this view is incorrect.  The Ninth Amendment reads:

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

Obviously there are rights that the founders recognized as having existence.  Equally as obvious, the founders considered these rights to be too numerous to be identified individually.  Those that are codified in the first eight amendments are listed simply because they were considered too important to risk not being identified.

That being said, the question that must be considered is:  Exactly what is a right? 

The answer to this is not self-evident, nor is it intuitively obvious.  The Random House Dictionary lists sixty-two separate definitions for the word "right" or "rights."  If there are over three score ways to explain what a seemingly simple word, then obviously, in short, easily understood words, it ain't that simple!

Jefferson listed as "rights" only life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.  He preceded this list with the timeless phrase:

...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

What followed those famous words is much less frequently quoted:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

Note that Jefferson didn't say that governments were instituted to grant rights, only to make the citizens secure in their rights.  Government is only a facilitator to insure that we, the citizens, are not deprived of rights that are ours at birth, and do not exist because they were granted by any government or individual. 

This view of government as a facilitator is clearly shown in the first eight amendments.  These eight are all written in a way that clearly identifies what the government cannot do.  Not what the government can do, not what the government should do, not what the government would like to do, but what it is expressly forbidden to do. 

Simply reading the First Amendment indicates this negative structure:

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.

"Congress shall make no law..." is about as clear a statement as I can imagine.  Congress cannot limit free speech in any way, whether written, printed, or today, broadcast.  It cannot prohibit or abridge our right to peaceful assembly.  It cannot establish an "official" religion as has been done in so many Muslim dominated nations.

That these are known today by Liberal-Progressive Constitutional scholars as "negative" rights is positively Orwellian.  The phrase suggests that the "negative" rights in the Constitution in some way limits the ordinary citizen's pursuit of happiness, since it tells the government what it cannot do.  The President himself sees this as a flaw in the structure of the Constitution since it doesn't empower the government to take "positive" steps to do things "for" the citizenry.

Once again, considering the man lectured at the University of Chicago on the subject, Obama's willful ignorance of the Constitution, or his inability to understand the reasoning that led to its adoption, are staggering.  The Constitution was never intended to do things "for" the citizenry.  It, as written, has one overall purpose and only one -- it is designed to control and limit the government.  It was written to impede almost all of Obama's desires in order to protect our rights. 

Apparently the President is in disagreement with the Founding Fathers because these limitations or "negative liberties" apply to the government itself, not the ordinary citizen.

It would also seem that Mr. Obama feels that his vision for a transformed America is constrained by a musty, antiquated scrap of parchment that describes his job functions.  After all, the entire Executive function of our government is described in Article II of our Constitution, in only two Sections. 

Article II, Section 1 describes the qualifications for anyone wanting to be president, the method of selecting the president (and vice-president).  Ignoring those paragraphs of Article II, Section 1 that have been superseded by later amendments (namely the 12th, 20th and 25th Amendments) this section plus the three related Amendments is about 1,400 total words. 

Article II, Section 2, on the other hand, describes what the executive is allowed to actually do.  As the name would imply the primary role of the executive branch is to ensure that laws passed by Congress are executed.  He is the Commander-in-Chief of the military.  He has the power to pardon and grant reprieves.  He can make treaties, if the Senate approves.  He can nominate the Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as senior administrators (such as Secretaries of the various executive departments) if the Senate concurs.  This only took the founders a whopping 322 words to describe the President's job. 

It took the founders, and subsequent amendments, almost five times longer to describe how to hire the president than in describing what they'd let him do after he was hired! 

It's as simple as that.  The Constitution is written precisely to cripple any President who wants to do things for us.  Of course, he or she would also then be unable to do things to us. 

Obama's attitude toward the Founders reminds me of a five-year old whining that Mommy is cruel because she wouldn't give him (or her) whatever they wanted the very second that they wanted it.  Well, the appropriate response to the man who is not only leader of the free world, but the "smartest guy in the room" is just this:

"Life is tough, Mr. President.  Then you die.  You can't always have every thing that you want. Live with it!  The rest of us do."

Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a Vietnam veteran and an independent voter.  Jim blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com/, or he can be contacted directly at james.v.yardley@gmail.com