Bill of Rights

Home » Bill of Rights

Ron Paul: My New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

in Liberator Online Archives by Advocates HQ Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In late December 2012, as he approached retirement from Congress, Ron Paul presented some New Year’s resolutions for his fellow members of Congress to ponder. 

If anything, they’re more relevant today than ever, and we’re pleased to share them with you. 

* * *

Ron PaulAs I prepare to retire from Congress, I’d like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions for my colleagues to consider. For the sake of liberty, peace, and prosperity I certainly hope more members of Congress consider the strict libertarian constitutional approach to government…

In just a few days, Congress will solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.  They should reread Article 1 Section 8 and the Bill of Rights before taking such a serious oath. Most legislation violates key provisions of the Constitution in very basic ways, and if members can’t bring themselves to say no in the face of pressure from special interests, they have broken trust with their constituents and violated their oaths. Congress does not exist to serve special interests, it exists to protect the rule of law.

I also urge my colleagues to end unconstitutional wars overseas. Stop the drone strikes; stop the covert activities and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. Strive to observe “good faith and justice towards all Nations” as George Washington admonished. We are only making more enemies, wasting lives, and bankrupting ourselves with the neoconservative, interventionist mindset that endorses pre-emptive war that now dominates both parties.

All foreign aid should end because it is blatantly unconstitutional. While it may be a relatively small part of our federal budget, for many countries it is a large part of theirs — and it creates perverse incentives for both our friends and enemies. There is no way members of Congress can know or understand the political, economic, legal, and social realities in the many nations to which they send taxpayer dollars.

Congress needs to stop accumulating more debt. U.S. debt, monetized by the Federal Reserve, is the true threat to our national security. Revisiting the parameters of Article 1 Section 8 would be a good start.

Congress should resolve to respect personal liberty and free markets. Learn more about the free market and how it regulates commerce and produces greater prosperity better than any legislation or regulation. Understand that economic freedom IS freedom. Resolve not to get in the way of voluntary contracts between consenting adults. Stop bailing out failed yet politically connected companies and industries. Stop forcing people to engage in commerce when they don’t want to, and stop prohibiting them from buying and selling when they do want to. Stop trying to legislate your ideas of fairness. Protect property rights. Protect the individual. That is enough.

There are many more resolutions I would like to see my colleagues in Congress adopt, but respect for the Constitution and the oath of office should be at the core of everything members of Congress do in 2013.

December 15: Celebrate Bill of Rights Day!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Bill of RightsA little-known but very important U.S. holiday is coming up — one far too many Americans are unaware of. It offers libertarians a great chance to inform Americans of our heritage of liberty and the urgent need today to defend that heritage.

December 15 is “Bill of Rights Day” — a day to celebrate, honor and renew support for our precious Bill of Rights.

It was on December 15, 1791 that the Bill of Rights  — the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution — went into effect.

One hundred and fifty years later, in 1941, December 15 was officially proclaimed Bill of Rights Day. States, cities, and counties across America have passed resolutions honoring Bill of Rights day. Some classrooms will hold special Bill of Rights Day classes, and some citizens and organizations will celebrate Bill of Rights Day.

Still, most Americans remain sadly unaware of the date’s significance.

The Bill of Rights is, of course, the great protector of American liberties. It boldly declares that people have certain inalienable rights that government cannot abridge — fundamental rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and more. It also provides procedures for defending those rights — such as fair trials and limits on federal power.

The Bill of Rights doesn’t belong just to America. It has inspired freedom fighters around the world. The Founders viewed their Revolution as the first blow in a struggle to win liberty for all the people of the world. So the Bill of Rights is truly a document for everyone.

Thomas Jefferson made this clear in a letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

Use Bill of Rights Day to teach family, friends, neighbors and others about our precious heritage.

It’s a great time for a letter to the editor discussing the vital importance of our Bill of Rights freedoms, and urging citizens to speak out against current calls to sacrifice liberty for (alleged) security.

With fundamental Bill of Rights freedom under unprecedented assault in recent years, this has never been more important.

To help with that, here’s a short summary of the Bill of Rights, prepared several years ago by students at Liberty Middle School in Ashley, Virginia. (I’ve added just a few words for clarification.) While this condensed version doesn’t have the majesty, depth and detail of the entire document, it is short and easy to understand, and may be useful to you in discussions and letters:

THE BILL OF RIGHTS

1. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to assemble peaceably, right to petition the government about grievances.
2. Right to keep and bear arms.
3. Citizens do not have to quarter soldiers during peacetime.
4. No unreasonable searches and seizures.
5. Rights of the accused.
6. Right to a fair trial.
7. Right to a trial by jury in civil cases also.
8. No cruel and unusual punishments.
9. Unenumerated rights go to the people.
10. Reserves all powers not given to the national government to the states or
the people.

All Americans should be familiar with their Bill of Rights freedoms. Sadly, numerous surveys indicate most are not. Indeed, as journalist James Bovard has pointed out, a 1991 poll commissioned by the American Bar Association found only 33 percent of Americans surveyed even knew what the Bill of Rights was. In one Gallup poll 70 percent did not know what the First Amendment was or what it dealt with.

As Adam Summers of the Reason Foundation observed in The Libertarian Perspective:

“The Founders must be spinning in their graves. Nearly everything the government does today is unconstitutional under the system they instituted. Governmental powers were expressly limited; individual liberties were not. Now it seems it is the other way around.

“If the Bill of Rights is to regain its meaning, we must rededicate ourselves to the principles it asserts and be mindful that a government powerful enough to give us all we want is powerful enough to take away everything we have.”

Let it begin with you. This December 15 is a great time to remind all Americans that we are, as the National Constitution Center puts it, a nation of “Bill”-ionaires.
Happy Bill of Rights Day!

THEY SAID IT…

in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off


JAY LENO’S LAST STAB AT OBAMACARE:
 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 2014.

They Said It… With George Will, Peggy Noonan, and More

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It.. section in Volume 18, No. 15 of the Liberator OnlineSubscribe here!)

YOUR CELL PHONE NOW WORKS FOR THE FBI:
Peggy Noonan“The FBI is able to remotely activate microphones on phones running Android software. They can now record conversations in this way. They can do the same with microphones in laptops. They can get to you in a lot of ways! Does this make you nervous? If not, why not?” – Peggy Noonan, “Why Christie Is Wrong,” Wall Street Journal blogs, August 5, 2013.

Bill of Rights

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?: “Asked to name the five specific freedoms in the First Amendment, 59% of Americans could name freedom of speech, followed by 24% who could name freedom of religion, 14% freedom of the press, 11% the right to assemble, and 4% the right to petition. Thirty-six percent of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” – The First Amendment Center reporting findings of its annual national survey of American attitudes about the First Amendment.

CHILLINOIS: “Today Illinois became the 20th state to legalize [medical] marijuana. The state also changed its name to Chillinois.” — Conan O’Brien, August 1, 2013.

THE “LIBERTARIAN MOMENT” IS HERE: “From issues such as same-sex marriage and legal marijuana to restrictions on government spying and U.S. intervention in foreign affairs, the nation is engaged in a new ‘libertarian moment,’ politicians and political scientists say.” — reporters Dave Helling and Steve Kraske, “Nation has arrived at a new ‘libertarian moment,’ experts say,” Kansas City Star, August 4, 2012.

GEORGE WILL DEFENDS LIBERTARIANISM AGAINST “DANGEROUS” GOV. CHRISTIE:
George Will“What libertarianism says — it comes in many flavors and many degrees of severity, and it basically says before the government abridges the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have (A) a compelling reason; and (B) a constitutional warrant for doing so. Now, if Mr. Christie thinks that’s a dangerous thought, a number of people are going to say that Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.” — pundit George Will responding to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent attacks on libertarianism, on ABC’s “This Week,” August 4, 2013.

JAY LENO ON OBAMACARE LIES: “The Obama administration has admitted that, under Obamacare, you might not be able to keep your doctor. At first the president guaranteed you’d be able to keep your doctor, and now they’re saying you ‘might’ be able to. Today Obama changed his slogan from ‘Yes we can’ to ‘Perhaps we could try. Can’t promise anything.’” — Jay Leno, July 24, 2013.

JAY LENO GIVES THANKS: “Detroit has become the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. What happened was Detroit’s population dropped something like 70 percent, but the government got bigger. The tax base got smaller, but the government got bigger. Thank God that kind of thing could never happen in Washington.” — Jay Leno, July 22, 2013.

What Are You Waiting For?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.” — Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, 1952.

Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl I love that quote. I believe it has a powerful message for those of us who want to make our world a freer place.

It’s easy to feel that you must be wealthy, brilliant, part of a huge organization or team, or a cog in someone else’s master plan before you can take a meaningful action for liberty.

It’s easy to think that, sometime in the future, you’ll be able to do something significant for freedom — after you’ve stashed away a lot more money, or learned more about the intricacies of libertarian thought, or read a stack of books on economics, or listened to that album of outreach CDs, or cleared up enough time to run for office… someday,
sometime, eventually…

But the truth is, you don’t have to wait a single moment.

Right now, you are already doing something to, as Anne Frank says, “improve the world” just by your commitment to read the Liberator Online — a publication designed to, among other things, help you become a highly successful communicator of the ideas of liberty.

When you’re finished reading, you can immediately begin to “improve the world” — in dozens of different ways.

You can (to name just a very few possibilities):

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting a libertarian cause — and by doing so, take our ideas to thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of readers.
  • Call your local libertarian organization and offer to support a worthy project or candidate, help with office chores, or work at an Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) outreach booth. See if they have something that needs to be done that fits your talents, finances and time.
  • Pick out several people you think are good prospects to accept libertarian ideas. Think about how you can effectively and persuasively answer whatever concerns may be keeping them from fully embracing libertarianism. (It could be they’re ready — just waiting to be asked.)
  • Make sure you have some good libertarian outreach literature with you at all times. (Naturally, I’m partial to our pocket-sized World’s Smallest Political Quiz.)
  • Wear a button or a pro-liberty T-shirt. Put a bumper sticker on your car. And, again, carry good outreach literature with you for the questions you’ll be asked. (Maybe a stack of Quiz cards in your glove compartment?)
  • Call, write, email or fax your local, state and national elected officials. Urge them to stand up for our precious Bill of Rights during this time of civil liberties crisis. Or tell them to take a pro-freedom vote on upcoming legislation you’re concerned about. The League of Women Voters has a site that makes it easy to find and contact your national, state and local politicians.
  • Make a contribution to a libertarian organization that is doing work you find useful and important. (Again, I’m partial here!)


That’s just a few of hundreds of possibilities — simple but vital things you can do right now that will definitely make a difference in the world. (And again, note they all involve effective communication and outreach — the specialty of the Advocates.)

Too insignificant? Hardly! Your newspaper letter will reach a huge audience, opening minds and exposing many to libertarian, perhaps for the first time. Your OPH booth could greatly increase the size of your local libertarian organization and recruit tomorrow’s libertarian leaders and activists. A single Quiz you pass out at your workplace or in your classroom may change someone’s life forever (it’s happened many times). The discussion about liberty you have with your nephew or friend or fellow student or co-worker may just bring a new libertarian into the world — and every new libertarian means we’re that much closer to a free world.

You can probably think of lots of other things you can do. Take a moment and think of one simple activity you can easily do right now — the possibilities are enormous.

And remember, you can start immediately — you don’t need any more preparation time, and you don’t need anyone’s permission!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.”

What are you waiting for?

The Surveillance Scandal: The Right — and the Wrong –Terms

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the 

Privacy or Liberty?human kingdom, define or be defined.”

So wrote the great libertarian Thomas Szasz.

Define or be defined. That’s a key principle of effective communication.

You can see this at work right now, in the unfolding scandal concerning government surveillance and the resulting public debate.

Those who defend such programs are using specific words to attempt to redefine and change what is at stake in this debate.

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” President Obama said this month. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

Similarly, I’ve watched TV pundits and talk show hosts discuss this issue over and over again — always using the word “privacy” and talking about “the debate over balancing security with privacy.”

What’s going on here? The president and his supporters are attempting to define — or perhaps more accurately, redefine — the debate.

They want us to see this, and discuss this, as a question of “privacy” and “convenience” versus “security.”

Or even better for them, as Obama puts it in the quote above: “100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience” versus security.

They want these words and phrases to define the debate because, if we debate using these terms, they win.

The argument that we must compromise on “privacy” and “convenience” sounds so reasonable. After all, don’t we all routinely relinquish some privacy for other values? For example, we voluntarily give websites like Facebook our personal information, in exchange for the value of being able to use their services. We give credit card companies detailed information about our financial and personal lives for the benefits of using their cards.

As for “convenience,” it sounds unreasonable — in fact, downright selfish — not to be willing to give up something so trivial as a little convenience in order to protect Americans from terrorism.

That’s the argument the administration and its defenders want to make. It’s how they want to frame the debate.

But “privacy” and “convenience” are not what this debate is about. Not at all.

It’s about liberty. The Fourth Amendment. Fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. The Constitution. Basic rights. Core freedoms.

“Privacy” and “convenience” are squishy, malleable, non-political terms. It’s easy to imagine “striking a balance” between them and something so vital as security.

But it’s far harder to imagine “balancing” your fundamental liberty. Anyone familiar with politics and history can see that such balancing acts quickly tip over to the government side.

They want to change the debate. Don’t let them.

Don’t use terms like “privacy” and “convenience” when discussing this issue. You lose every time these words are the ones used to describe what’s at stake in this debate. Politely but firmly object to them if politicians and others use them.

Point out that this debate is about liberty. The Fourth Amendment. Fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. The Constitution. Constitutional guarantees. Basic rights. Core freedoms.

This is also a great time to memorize, and quote, the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

And the words of President Obama, in 2009: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Define — or be defined.