David Ethan Kennerly. 25 May 2004.
Democracy is not just an abstract concept. Democracy affects the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Americans. The US Constitution has been the founding document to protect US citizens from the US government. Its first ten amendments directly stated that purpose. Yet two hundred years later, many question to what extent the US is a democracy. If the first ten amendments asserted individual rights in the face of a majority, let us consider three new amendments to advance democracy:
Let us first define the term that we propose to advance, democracy. Democracy seeks the end of political equality of its members through the means of liberty. The particular differences between different forms of government become clearer when considering the means to an end. Alexis de Tocqueville separated democracy from socialism as, "Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude." Political equality refers to the rights held by a member, the power to coerce and control the monopoly of legitimate violence, which is the nature of the beast: government. Liberty is the ability of a member to act counter to the interests of the majority and is the protection from being harmed by a hostile majority. For voting guarantees the violation of 49% of the members' rights. Benjamin Franklin recognized the necessity of liberty to advance democracy in the US since, "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution may be the most important document for protecting the rights of any minority of Americans. Since America is a heterogeneous society, almost all people hold at least one minority trait, opinion, belief, behavior, interest, or preference. Furthermore, at the micro-political level of interaction each person is a minority of one, which the philosopher Ayn Rand pointed out, "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."
"The Abridged Bill of Minority Rights" is meant to protect any minority of any size, from as small as one to as large as one-half of the population. A majority is not a sufficient condition to take away someone's life, liberty, or any expression thereof. It is not moral kill, steal, or extort from a minority, or for that matter, from a population of any size, by a population of any size. As rights activist Mahatma Gandhi recognized, "In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place." And without respect for life, property, and free choice, there can be no democracy (Rand). The right to free speech means nothing if the government can reassign an unpopular member to a remote job, or selectively audit an income tax return. Therefore, to advance democracy we have to strike at the root of the weed that has been undermining democracy. Let us try with three blows.
Number 3. Right to Free Support. The First Amendment guarantees that US government is chartered to refrain from abridging a citizen's free speech. It means nothing to be allowed to speak one's mind if one is also being forced to labor against one's mind; that is, to be a slave. If one holds a political belief, such as that a preemptive strike on a foreign country on dubious evidence, then one has a right to say so. In addition, one has a right to politically support agencies that concord with such beliefs. By logical contrapositive, the same right means one also has the right not to support agencies that do not concord with one's beliefs. Thus, one has a right to withdraw support from a government that one has a strong objection to. An advanced democracy must delimit governmental scope to willing subscribers in the Constitution.
This amendment also promotes the right to conscientious objection to war and the abolition of conscription, as one may withdraw subscription at any time. Modern businesses cannot and should not be able to arbitrarily and permanently siphon goods and services from a person. In an advanced democracy, neither should the government. Many have argued that government performs vital services that private businesses cannot. To the extent that is true, in an advanced democracy it is up to each citizen to make the personal decision every day to subscribe to this belief or not. Furthermore, when government behaves counter to the interests of a minority, it is important that they have a means of satisfaction or at least a means of expressing discontent by refusing to support the misbehaving government. As Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black stated, freedom of political and economic support is an extension of the freedom of speech:
Compelling a man by law to pay his money to elect candidates or advocate law or doctrines he is against differs only in degree, if at all, from compelling him by law to speak for a candidate, a party or a cause he is against.
As an example, preceding the Iraq War, the US government might have been more caring to the protestors if the protestors could conveniently cancel their Federal services while still maintaining their local services. The philosophical point was made clear over two hundred years ago. It is now that the technology enables it and the citizens need only to demand their rights respected.
Number 2. Right to Equality. A democracy seeks political equality; in it no person, whether government or not, should be privileged. This does not mean they are necessarily economically, socially, physically, mentally, or charismatically equality, which almost no two persons are. What political equality means is equality of opportunity. Yet, US government has been operating under privileged conditions compared to non-government service providers. The Constitution must abolish these undemocratic privileges.
Technology has overcome the practical barriers of most services that government has heretofore monopolized, such as postal service, defense, certain algorithms of cryptography, food and drug regulations, energy regulations, environmental regulations, and outright local government bribery such as alcohol, taxi, and gambling licenses.
Number 1. Right to Free Thought. There can be no effective democracy if each member does not have the intellectual equipment with which to make complicated decisions. The foundation of this prerequisite education may be excited or be inhibited at an early age, as a young mind is quick to learn either to think and explore, but quicker to learn the fastest route to minimal satisfaction and the behavior required to avoid physical pain and psychological discomfort. To advance democracy, coercive government education must be abolished within the Constitution itself.
To refrain from stamping out freedom of thought, there should be a strict separation of Education and State. In the vein of the First Amendment separation of Church and State, an advanced democracy needs to remove involuntary government propaganda from schools. In the area of beliefs and ideology, Science and Academia has largely supplanted Religion. Science is our Oracle. Government has a pernicious tendency to warp any ideology that it funds to justify the expansion of the State. Generations of children, who in prior centuries had been educated to obey God, are now being educated to obey Government. As soldiers' abuses in Iraq are revealing, blind obedience to government undermines democracy. In addition, public education has been a significant correlation to the decline of literacy (Simpson). Democracy needs educated members, with the ability to think independently, so they may decide intelligently.
This "Abridged Bill of Minority Rights" begins to flesh out for the 21st Century the necessary amendments to advance democracy in the US. To do so, one ought to recognize the purpose and efficacy of the original Bill of Rights, which Supreme Court Justice Laurence H. Tribe did. A bill of rights is not only "designed to protect individuals and minorities against the tyranny of the majority, but it's also designed to protect the people against bureaucracy, against the government."
Black, Hugo L. US Supreme Court Justice, IAM v. Street, 367 U.S. 1961.
Rand, Ayn. "Racism." Reprinted in The Virtue of Selfishness. 1963.
Simpson, Barry Dean. "'Free' Education and Literacy." LPNet e-newsletter. 28 January 2004.
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. 1840.
Tribe, Laurence H. United States v. Carolene Products Co. 304 U.S. 144, 152 n.4. 1938.