David Ethan Kennerly. 21 May 2004.
When is it
moral for a group to do
what is immoral for any member to do?
(Robert Heinlein paraphrase, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress)
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 ten new amendments, ranked order of their advancement of democracy:
10. Right to Redress.
9. Right to Peace.
8. Right to Information.
7. Right to Sovereignty.
6. Right to Free Behavior.
5. Right to Nullify.
4. Right to Free Choice.
3. Right to Free Support.
2. Right to Equality.
1. Right to Free Thought.
That sounded nice. What did it mean? Moreover, what does democracy mean, and what does the Constitution have to do with it?
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" (qtd. telemanage). Political equality itself, thought is not necessarily any clearer a term than democracy. We have lifted the cloud of fog from one term only to move it to another. 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. Political power is dangerous a dangerous substance even when handled carefully. Equality of political power is essential, for "Absolute power corrupts even when exercised for humane purposes. The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep" (Eric Hoffer qtd. telemanage). 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 does not guarantee anything more than 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!" (qtd. telemanage). This analogy illustrates the protection of the rights of the minority, in this case a minority of two to one, or 33%. Let us extend further to examine minority rights in the US.
The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution may be the most important document for protecting the rights of any minority of Americans. One may consider an arbitrary population of citizens with various and conflicting interests and preferences. If the population is not evenly divided, then there must be a majority and a minority. Furthermore, the probability of an even division of a population diminishes at the rate of 1/n. In the case of 300,000,000 persons, the odds of random division resulting in no majority or minority are one in 300,000,000, which is very small indeed. Therefore, in all practical cases, there is a majority and a minority. It may be close, such as the difference in the official count of votes in the 2000 US Presidential election. As many racial minorities have experienced in during US history, minority rights are important. 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 Ayn Rand pointed out, "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities" (qtd. telemanage). The US Constitution protects the rights of minorities. It is often confused that the majority directly threatens the rights of the minority. More often in a democracy, their rights are threatened through the apparatus of violence, the government itself. This is a critical point, which Rand also concisely made clear:
"Today, when a concerted effort is made to obliterate this point, it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals -- that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government -- that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizen's protection against the government" (qtd. telemanage).
Some would say that the government protects minorities from majorities. I pray it would. However, let us not be naive. If the government were perfect in protecting rights, then there would be no need for government in the first place. Alternatively, if government could be trusted to refrain from violating rights, there would be no need of the original Bill of Rights. Yet that fairy tale was refuted millennia ago, as Demosthenes exemplifies, "There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust" (qtd. telemanage). Since government is untrustworthy to uphold rights, and since the Constitution has not advanced the US far enough toward a democracy, we need The Bill of Minority Rights, to advance us further.
The 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. As Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi recognized, "In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place." (qtd. telemanage). 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. 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 salt mine, or audit their income tax returns with any chose weapon out of the 7,000,000-word arsenal at their disposal (Forbes qtd. telemanage). Therefore, to uphold rights we have to strike at the root. Let us try, with ten blows, if you will.
If legislators, executors, and judges had respected the current Bill of Rights, then the US would have already advanced much farther than it has toward democracy. Instead, politicians, as a whole, take advantage of a crisis to further their own agendas at the expense of civil rights (Higgs). Citizens and non-citizen residents or visitors need a right to sue the government for violation of rights, and the right to sue the particular parties responsible for the violation of rights, including and especially the legislators that violated their charter in proposing the bill.
Government does not supply the rights being declared in the Bill of Rights and herein, but are natural rights according the Locke, which predate government. This constrains the rights possible. One cannot have a right to force another person to help one in any case where the force violates the other person's right not to be forced, with violence or threat of violence. By natural rights, it does not matter whether one holds the position of peasant or politician. An ethical duty prescribes respect of these natural rights. Let us continue our advance toward democracy with the remaining nine amendments.
To advance democracy, abolish the standing army. Based oft neglected Third amendment, this amendment may read as follows:
War is the health of the State and is the excuse to violate rights of its own citizens. Liberty is one of the first casualties of war, as Tocqueville put it, "All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it." (qtd. telemanage). According to Hermann Goering, one of the chief administrators of the Nazi war machine, almost never do the people want to fight (qtd. telemanage). The politicians stand to benefit at the expense of the rights of the people. As one framer of the Constitution put it, "Whenever a people ... entrust the defence of their country to a regular, standing army, composed of mercenaries, the power of that country will remain under the direction of the most wealthy citizens." (qtd. telemanage). Depleting a population's resources for the unilateral benefit of the wealthy is not in the interests of the rest of population. Thus, involuntary support of a such a war or such a standing army is undemocratic. A vote to start a war and a vote to end a war ameliorates this injustice.
A population cannot act in its own interest without knowing what actions are being taken against its own interests. If the government is secretly testing Blacks in the South for syphilis, then these persons or anyone else cannot abolish the rights violation. For a democracy to make meaningful choices, it must be informed what the government is doing; so it must abolish sustained secret government activity.
In particular, the net transfers of public funds define the financial status of the government. Already, today, it is possible to check some political campaign financing (Houfek). Even war secrets cannot be entrusted to the government for more than a year. In a healthy democracy, each person in a position of political power must face the consequences of their use of power, and this is only possible if their use is known. A right to be informed is an extension of the First Amendment, which is a right to provide information, as Justice William O. Douglas pointed out, "The dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of government suppression of embarrassing information" (qtd. telemanage). Government can plumb the leak at the source of embarrassing information if it is able to maintain any secrets. For a secret, by definition, is obscured information.
The basic problem with a majority rule system is the trampling of the minority. Perhaps there were and are some cases where compromise is required for the benefit of even the minority in question, yet modern technology has made much of the need for territorial domains of political power obsolete. An advanced democracy needs to recognize the limits of legitimacy, and it must be done in its charter:
A democracy operates at a level of intelligence that corresponds to the level of intelligence of its voters. Yet, those discouraged, or practicing gesture politics, by not voting still have rights that deserve respect. Therefore, an elected official requires the majority of constituents, not just the majority of votes. The advancement of democracy requires an evolution beyond the 20th Century conception that, "Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what it is you want to hear." (Alan Coren qtd. worldofquotes 1). Modern democracy thrives best when regional and cultural differences are respected. Modern technology enables this. One can communicate around the planet in a few seconds, and permanently move around the planet in less than a day. The need for complete Union of the 19th Century to promote the interests of a democracy is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Complete Union, or complete consolidation of political power from the 20th Century onward has proven, as in Tolkien's myth of the One Ring, to be completely undemocratic--complete subjugation. Michael Kinsley was right when he said, "Anything that keeps a politician humble is healthy for democracy" (qtd. telemanage).
A democracy that does not permit its members to act as they please, in short to pursue happiness, within the constraints of respecting their fellows' rights, is no democracy at all. Yet US government wove cancerous tendrils around certain victimless behavior that endanger its claim to democracy. The US Constitution should abolish political persecution of victimless behavior.
This follows the principles of the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed the unrightful prohibition of alcoholic beverages. Some victimless behavior is self-destructive, such as drug abuse. Yet government has proven itself woefully incompetent during the alcoholic prohibition and during the current prohibition of dozens or more substances. It has proven itself competent only in its publicity campaigns and financing campaigns to turn citizen dollars into Federally funded rights violation program. Philosophically, a person cannot said to have any right at all, if he does not have a right to life. A person cannot have a right to life without also having a right to shorten or end that life. Practically, victimless crimes are an excuse to abridge democracy. They are a soft, gateway policy to the destruction of hardcore, fundamental minority rights.
A democracy is defined by the political power of its members, which has historically been implemented in elections. Yet the Juror's Handbook reminds us: "Did you know that you qualify for another, much more powerful vote than the one which you cast on election day? This opportunity comes when you are selected for jury duty, a position of honor for over 700 years." US government routinely lies to millions of Americans about their rights as jurors not only to judge the facts of the case but also to judge the law itself ("FIJA Facts"). A fully informed jury amendment would solve this threat to democracy:
As an example, in 2003, a jury whose members did not even believe he was guilty convicted Ed Rosenthal for growing marijuana. They were strictly and explicitly instructed by the judge to return a guilty verdict if the letter of the law had been broken. When a few of the jurors were fully informed, after the trial, they were shocked and regretted their verdict. They did not agree with the law or its applicability to the case.
The ability to choose is implicit in the definition of a democracy. Yet, the US has robbed several fundamental financial choices from its citizens. To advance democracy: repeal the Sixteenth Amendment: no income tax.
In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was a tremendous, albeit subtle, blow to democracy. Money-hungry politicians of the day changed the Constitution to read:
Amendment XVI. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
Although it began at less than 2%, income taxes have swollen up to 30% for citizens making a modest living. It was not the amount, it was the principle. Freedom of speech means the freedom to disagree. Yet, disagreement is meaningless without the ability to also disagree by refusing to financially support the institution. For example, thousands protested the US's invasion of Iraq. Yet each of them was forced at the threat of having their own home invaded into financially backing the war via their tax revenues. Some argue that non-military spending is a legitimate use of political power. Yet, this misses the underlying principle of rights. The right to spend someone else's money is called theft, or as Rand put it, "Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel" (qtd. telemanage). Some have argued that a human right cannot be an economic rights, such as a right to income and property. Yet, this is a false assertion, which David Friedman made clear, "Property rights are not the rights of property; they are the rights of humans with regard to property. They are a particular kind of human right" (worldofquotes). Now are striking near the root of the problem, which is the obstruction of human rights.
The First Amendment guarantees that US government is chartered to refrain from abridging a citizen's free speech. Yet, free speech is a form of communication. As economics tells us, goods and services are also a form of communication, to which a free market listens. 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. An advanced democracy must delimit governmental scope to willing subscribers in the Constitution:
Territorial dominion and complete Union is obsolete. It is a regression away from democracy and toward feudalism, as Alvin W. Gouldner eloquently put it:
Any society that entails the strengthening of the state apparatus by giving it unchecked control over the economy, and re-unites the polity and the economy, is an historical regression. In it there is no more future for the public, or for the freedoms it supported, than there was under feudalism (qtd. Higgs xxi).
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. It is an extension of the Freedom of Speech, as Justice Hugo L. Black stated:
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. The very reason for the First Amendment is to make the people of this country free to think, speak, write and worship as they wish, not as the Government commands (qtd. telemanage).
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. As Thomas Paine put it:
It has been thought a considerable advance towards establishing the principles of Freedom, to say, that government is a compact between those who govern and those that are governed: but this cannot be true, because it is putting the effect before the cause; for as man must have existed before governments existed, there necessarily was a time when governments did not exist, and consequently there could originally exist no governors to form such a compact with. The fact therefore must be, that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist (qtd. telemanage).
A democracy seeks political equality; the rules of the game apply uniformly to each player in the game. No person, whether government or not, is privileged. This does not mean they are necessarily economically, socially, physically, mentally, or charismatically equality, which almost no two persons are, nor should they be, as Screwtape made clear in his toast to fellow devils: The belief that "I'm as good as you" is only made by the inferior who wishes to drag down the superior to an equal level of inferiority (Lewis). 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.
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. This has included public education, which teaches US mythology, starting with a gracious caricature of Columbus and ending with a rosy picture of US politics in practice. The myth of Free Lunch is no more substantiated than Creationism, Paganism, or any other pantheon of any religion. As Thomas Sowell put it: " "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics" (worldofquotes 15). " Their net result is to rob young, impressionable youths from freedom of thought. Generations of children, who in prior centuries had been educated to fear and obey God, are now being educated to fear and obey Government. As soldiers' abuses in Iraq are revealing, blind obedience to Government undermines democracy. Democracy needs educated members so that the members may make wise decisions. Public education has been the number one correlation to the decline, the vast spread of stupidity. American public schools are closing the gap that separates them from becoming little more than propagandistic day care facilities, where obedience scores higher than intelligence. In a prison there is only two grades: present or absent, and only one criterion: good behavior. In the classroom that grades on attendance and subconsciously on pro-lecturer behavior over intellectual productivity is closing the gap the separates it from a government-funded form of behavior control. A dramatic increase in functional illiteracy and incompetence are the price that an undemocratic government is willing to pay for a broader base of conformity.
An old Chinese proverb says: "If you have a year, plant rice. If you have ten years, plant a tree. If you have a hundred years, educate the people" (paraphrase). Unfortunately, this proverb applies equally well if one's intentions are to help or dominate the people. The only difference is the former would provide an education that an individual would freely choose; whereas, the latter would offer a crafted experience in the guise of an education that limited competence only to the skills required for subjugation.
Some have argued that government ought to provide mythical services at no cost, or at least at no cost to the person receiving the service. There are two problems with this. The first is the pernicious tendency previously mentioned in regards to "education" for the service to become corrupt to, in the end, fulfill government's interests at the expense of the recipient. The other problem is more basic, which is hard to recognize within the paradigm of social justice taught in public schools. Life is not guaranteed. Nor can it be. A man who dies from a heart attack cannot sue his Maker. The scope of rights and of freedom does not apply to the natural world, only to the sphere of coercion, the delicate game whose only ultimate means is violence; i.e. politics. Although this essay is not Objectivist or capitalist Rand again pointed out this insight:
Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state--and nothing else. (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
Some would rather not have political freedom. That is fine. But some would and should.
I designed this Bill of Minority Rights 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, as it 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" (Judge Lawrence Tribe qtd. telemanage).
Some may retort that these views uphold a utopia or anarchy, which is itself unviable. The freedoms we still demand were not always with us. The level of political equality that we currently enjoy was not always present. There may be retorts that these views are not viable, that such proposals would not see the light of the Congressional floor. F. Lee Bailey would counter such a respondent: "Can any of you seriously say the Bill of Rights could get through Congress today? It wouldn't even get out of committee" (qtd. telemanage).
Still others may retort that some people are better off without freedom; it is better to be fed and unfree than hungry and free. Given those to choices and no alternatives, the answer would be obvious. But that is not the menu. The scarcity of the world shall not disappear in the foreseeable future, nor is government doing anything constructive on that front. Some persons, such as all incompetent or mentally challenged, are literally better off without the freedom to make decisions. Government survives on their support, but let it survive on their voluntary support. As Eric Hoffer said, "Those who lack the capacity to achieve much in an atmosphere of freedom will clamor for power" (qtd. worldofquotes 14). Certainly, persons of this type reject any advances in democracy that do not make exceptions for the flavor of feudalism that advances their own interests. For those unfortunate souls, politics will never evolve beyond Bierce's definition in the Devil's Dictionary: "politics. n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage." It may be equally applicable to those that argue to advance democracy, such as myself. Yet, a critical difference made herein, which is the precondition to the advancement of democracy: voluntary choice. I am proposing a democratic system of voluntary offers backed by services, in place of the vestigial feudal system of threats and oaths backed by violence.
1. Right to Free Thought.
2. Right to Equality.
3. Right to Free Support.
4. Right to Free Choice.
5. Right to Nullify.
6. Right to Free Behavior.
7. Right to Sovereignty.
8. Right to Information.
9. Right to Peace.
10. Right to Redress.
Bierce, Ambrose. The Devil's Dictionary. Reprinted online. <http://www.alcyone.com/max/lit/devils/p.html> 21 May 2004.
"Fija Facts." <http://www.fija.org/FIJA%20FACTS.htm>
Heinlein, Robert. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. 1962.
Higgs, Robert. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. 1989.
Houfek, Thomas D. "a crack in the ice." 29 March 2004 and 1 April 2004. < http://www.livejournal.com/~tdhoufek/> 20 May 2004.
Lewis, Clive Staples. "Screwtape Proposes a Toast." The Screwtape Letters. 1961.
Juror's Handbook. <http://www.caught.net/juror.htm> 20 May 2004.
telemanage.com "Quotes on liberty." 20 May 2004.
worldofquotes.com "Political government quotations." World of Quotes. 20 May 2004.