Freedom Can't Be "Locked In"

Monday, March 17, 2014

Given that all kinds of innocuous actions violate federal law and that our President openly (and without political challenge) flouts his duties, many are right to be concerned about the ability of ordinary people to live their lives without government meddling. Unfortunately, some of the proposed remedies are worse than inaction, to wit a slew of proposals in the "Show Me" state to enshrine such activities as parenting, hunting, and farming, as constitutionally enumerated "rights".

An advocate of the parenting initiative, which may appear on ballots soon, has this to say:

Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said that courts already recognized the rights of parents, but that adding it to the constitution would give them greater weight. Richardson, who sponsored the measure, said great care had been taken in including exceptions for court intervention and other situations.
As you might suspect, this law will have no immediate, practical legal effect. Furthermore, given the increasing tendency of elected officials to ignore the law and an enormous amount of judicial precedent favoring laws that ought to have been rejected as unconstitutional, I fail to see what extra weight Richardson imagines such "rights" will have. Certainly, one thing is being given greater weight: The idea that particular spheres of action are permitted us by the government, as opposed to inherent rights, the protection of which is the proper job of the government.

Sadly, this seems to be the one concern not on the minds of opponents:
Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, said she was concerned that parents who had committed any criminal act unrelated to their children would be able to retain their parental rights. She said the constitutional amendment had an "anti-child welfare implication" and would hinder the protection of children.


"It made us a little nervous," said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri Kids First. "We have to carefully balance parental rights with the rights of children, and the rights of children to grow up in situations where they are safe."

But after some research, the group concluded that the amendment would not change the current system of investigating, responding to or prosecuting child abuse.
Translation: We do not understand that the proper job of the government is to protect (not violate, while pretending to "grant" or "balance") individual rights for all persons. If we did, we would realize that certain kinds of criminals would lose access to their own children, who have rights. Furthermore, we -- like the advocates of this initiative -- fail to see that so long as parents do not actually harm or severely neglect their children, they would (and should) be free to raise their children as they see fit.

The idea of a constitutional guarantee would be laughable were it not so tragic on so many levels. To name just a few: First, a constitution without a government that enforces it (or a populace that even wants it to) is merely a piece of paper. Second, the very idea of "locking in" things before they get further eroded is also absurd, given how this erosion occurs: through the public continually demanding government meddling and favors, and a pliant judiciary twisting the law into pretzels to justify each new encroachment on liberty. Third, the constitution can be amended anyway: So what if something is listed as a "right" today?

Do I need to go on?

A constitutional amendment is not a magical spell that will end the consequences of over a century of publicly-demanded (but improper) meddling and theft by the government. And a plebiscite isn't a cleansing ritual that will make American Revolutionaries out of us all. The law will remain toothless -- at least as a guardian of liberty -- so long as its supporters resort to it as a substitute for moral suasion.

There is no way to "lock in" liberty. And there is no way to keep it for a people who do not understand or want it. That's what "a republic -- if you can keep it" means. The left attempts to use the law to create outcomes it desires at the expense of individual freedom, but at least it works to persuade (by rational means or not) people that this is the right thing to do. Conservatives are worse if this is any indication: They pretend that the law works like a computer program -- and that our agreement with it is unnecessary and that it is not open to interpretation.

The only way to gain and keep liberty is to understand for oneself its basis and why it is a necessity, and to help others do so. Only then can one even begin to think clearly about how to make our country free again, let alone cause that to happen.

-- CAV

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