New US Bill of Rights

Hat tip to NRO’s “The Corner” blog for this election coverage:

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D. Toledo) whipped the crowd up before Mr. Obama took the stage yesterday telling them that America needed a Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing all Americans a job, health care, homes, an education, and a fair playing field for business and farmers.

In short, the right to coercion of other people and to redistributed wealth.  Sadly, it’s this sort of thinking that makes me wary of any movement on a bill of rights in Australia – even though I believe we could certainly benefit from some constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.  By “fair playing field for business and farmers,” he no doubt means government assistance and protection from the “evils” of free market competition.

As a reader from The Corner points out, these rights were guaranteed in another country’s constitution:

Article 40. Citizens of the USSR have the right to work…

Article 41. Citizens of the USSR have the right to rest and leisure…

Article 42. Citizens of the USSR have the right to health protection…

Article 44. Citizens of the USSR have the rights to housing…

Article 45. Citizens of the USSR have the right to education…

28 thoughts on “New US Bill of Rights

  1. Spot on Fleeced; I have been speculating along the same lines for years.

    A bill of rights at this stage would in my opinion end up granting a lefties wish list of things the state aught to do for them and to us.

    It hit me when Elisabeth Taylor held a press conference to express her outrage that there were toilets that could only be accessed by inserting a coin in the door. Liz claimed that it was a basic human right to be able to go for free.

  2. lol, Jim… A right to free public toilets – I hadn’t heard that one before.

    Though, I would add, the user of a public toilet is not always the primary beneficiary… for example, in a high-density area, between say, a string of pubs and a train station, I could just as easily utinate on some poor bastard’s doorstep – free of charge.

    The moral to the story is: don’t buy a terrace in Surry Hills/Darlinghurst 🙂

  3. To the exploding number of rights the Left insists we should have, Bentham long ago wrote that the mere idea of ‘rights’ was “nonsense on stilts.”

    Perhaps a moderate libertarian view midway between the Left’s ocean of expanding rights and Bentham’s no rights at all would note the existence of only one human right, which would be the right to be human. All other rights would be ancillary, created by acts of legislatures, court rulings, or executive decree. It necessarily follows, such a human right would be grounded solely on those features of human existence which are distinctly human.

    For example, since other life forms build shelters, there is no ‘human right’ to shelter. Other life forms have existence, so there is no ‘human right’ to life. All forms of life in nature consume calories for sustenance, so there is no ‘human right’ to food.

    The one human right–the libertarian, universal human right–would be grounded on five distinctively human factors: human morality; human rationality; human history; objectivity; and human nature, especially our very human propensity to form and offer an alternative or contrary opinion. The violation of any of these five grounds would be an attempt to deny a human their humanity, their being human.

    As for toilet access as a right, that would be left to politicians with weak kidneys, but it cannot be a human right, because, well, ever watch a horse piss?

  4. Nobody should advocate a bill of rights. What they should advocate is specific rights. Advocating a bill of rights is like advocating a blank cheque.

  5. Duoist, libertarians do believe in human rights. We believe that humans have the right to self-ownership. That means we have the right to do what we like as long as it’s voluntary and peaceful. Also known as “liberty” or “freedom”.

    The other “rights” that are referred to (housing, health, transport etc) would be better described as “benefits”, and they by definition violate the above right to self-ownership.

    Perhaps it is appropriate to give up a bit of our self-ownership for some benefits. Though personally, I doubt it.

  6. That’s an interesting way of looking at it Duoist, but I think Temujin’s definition is simpler. All of our freedoms come from self-ownership.

    If you own yourself, then you have a right to life. If you own your life, then it follows that you have a right to liberty – to think/act/speak freely. If you own your own life and the right to act accordingly, then it follows that you own the product of your actions, ie, property.

    Life, liberty and property. These are your rights, insofar as you do not violate the life, liberty or property of another. They all stem from the concept self-ownership.

    Though Australia was a penal colony, it was also founded on the dream of self-ownerhsip – to be a continent “untainted by slavery”.

  7. Actually, what the USA should have done was declare that the Declaration of Independence WAS their Bill of Rights, and was the ultimate law of the land, and every law and act of Congress had to conform to it. Then they should have acted on it, even banning slavery there and then.
    As it is, having a separate Bill of Rights seems to be a way to separate it from the acts of government. And, as we keep hearing from Canada, having Bills of Rights gives lots of work to Human Rights Commissions- Mark Steyn is being pursued by one because a Muslim took offence to something in a book. I suppose a Bill of rights for work will give work to judges, at least!

  8. Most people don’t know what rights are and don’t have a logical non-contradictory definition for rights.
    ie: Most people wouldn’t understand that a contradiction exists if the government grants a right to education. Because they are then violating the right to own your own property through taxation for this service and your right to be free from physical force.

    I’d recommend this link. Howard Stern interviews people on the street who support Obama. He then quotes McCain’s policies to them but pretends they are Obama’s policies. The net result is that these people wouldn’t have a clue what they’re actually voting for.

    Most people aren’t concerned with political theory and make their decisions based on emotion, popular opinion or based on a religious authority figure.

    Most people also do not understand the basis of the higher level concepts they use (eg/ the concept of “rights” or “freedom”). They cannot connect the concept to reality and don’t understand the less abstract concepts upon which the higher level concept rests. This phenomena was dubbed the “floating abstraction” by Ayn Rand.

    Fleeced you may be interested that this type of phoney “rights” talk in the US dates back to FDR’s presidency: See http://worldpolicy.org/projects/globalrights/econrights/fdr-econbill.html
    And yet people still believe we live in a capitalist society!

  9. A proper bill of rights, which should only be a few clauses, defines the limits of the State and is premised on the inherent rights of the individual.

    A right to a benefit, like to be provided with a home, is nonsense perched on an atlas rocket and going up fast. for one thing, how are benefit rights to be defined? A tent, a bandaid, grade one? when are these rights exhausted?

    Still, get used to it. I smell new deal 2 in the air.

  10. I support a Bill of Rights. Just because the left wants a different Bill of Rights to the one I want doesn’t mean I do a dummy spit and give up on the idea entirely.

    We have a government that does and will take away freedoms. So it is not enough to say that “self-ownership” should be a right. To do so would instantly provide justification for anarchy, law-breaking and tax evasion, etc. Yes libertarians might like that, but it is too radical.

    But we do need a Bill of Rights that enshrines freedom of belief, freedom of speech, freedom of association. We need to guarantee that anything in our minds, anything coming out of our mouths is free from government. And that anyone we meet is our free choice.

    A specific Bill of Rights is not a blank cheque anymore than advocating a liberal democracy has a constitution is.

  11. Most people can’t define higher level concepts such as a government granted “right” or even a concept such as “freedom”.
    Ayn Rand called this failure to understand the lower level concepts upon which higher level concepts rest and the inability to therefore be able to relate the concept to reality, a floating abstraction.

    This means most people don’t have a non-contradictory logical understanding of “rights”.
    So they aren’t aware that if a government was to grant the “right” of shelter for example, this would necessarily involve a contradiction ie: a violation of other rights such as property rights (income tax) and the right to be free from physical force (jail if you don’t pay your tax).

    This phoney rights talk of course isn’t new or unique to Obama, one of the first offenders was FDR: See http://worldpolicy.org/projects/globalrights/econrights/fdr-econbill.html
    FDR – you have a lot to answer for.

    I’d recommend the following link to illustrate my point:

    Howard Stern interviews Obama supporters on the street. But he quotes McCain’s policies pretending that they are Obama’s. Of course all the people he interviews agree they are good policies even though Obama doesn’t stand for them. He even gets one guy to say Palin would make a good president if something happened to Obama!

    These people know they support Obama and they know they support a “change” they can “believe” in. But they have no idea what policies they are supporting.
    And when the shit hits the socialist, collectivist fan, I wonder what’s going to happen. (NB/ I don’t support McCain either, I think he could be worse).

  12. So in summary – in our current culture a bill of rights would probably be a disaster – as demonstrated by the ever-so-popular Obama speech.

    However a properly constructed bill of rights would IMO ideally be the best basis for legal protection and civil society.
    The closest thing to that ideal was the US bill of rights.
    In particular the memorable phrase, “the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. NB/ the pro-individual bent.

  13. This is obviously just empty rhetoric. It doesn’t change my position which is that we need certain rights codified in our constitution.

  14. Tim R; Indeed”The closest thing to that ideal was the US bill of rights.” however The phrase”the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” was in the declaration of independence, still it is inspiring.

  15. Nobody will be in a hurry to put a right to life in a bill of rights! Imagine the uproar if it was suggested.
    A right to liberty would need heavy qualification or criminal law goes out the window and I suppose that would be the end of conscription as well.
    Of course the pursuit of happiness is a wonderful motherhood statement incapable of being given meaningful legal expression.

  16. Yeah, Tim R., what are you, an anti-abortionist!!!??? Right to life, indeed!!!
    In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the only thing the government is really good at protecting- the pursuit, not the attaining. The economy is a treadmill, needing you and me to keep working for a happiness just over the horizon. If we ever reached happiness, we would stop working, and there goes the economy!

  17. My bad Jim

    Pedro the statement the “pursuit of happiness” has plenty of meaning and is well worded.
    The right to “pursue” happiness as opposed to the right to “happiness” implies freedom for all.
    This statement is saying that a person should be free to act on his decisions and achieve his goals. It is also carefully worded so as to not guarentee happiness (unlike Obama’s speech which seeks to guarentee housing, education, health) – because guarenteeing these necessarily involves physical force and rights violations.

    Also a right to liberty is a good one as long as the theory is non-contradictory. And as long as the concept liberty is understood by the rights makers.
    A criminal’s “liberty” to commit crimes comes at the expense of other’s liberty. Therefore liberty has not been granted at all by the political system.
    ie: liberty is not the same thing as anarchy.

    This all reminds me of a spoof video I saw recently on gun control that some of you may find amusing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L3kMuN8sjk

  18. A proposal for a bill of rights for the Commonwealth of Australia:

    Article 1.

    Senator Conroy keeps his filthy, grubby hands of my internet access and console/computer games.

    Article 2.

    Rudd acts as a decent patron of a gun club and rolls back the NFA and guns laws to pre 1997 law.

    Article 3.

    Rudd is to be kept honest as an economic conservative and promises not to take any more income away than necessary, nor to devalue your money and keeps austere monetary policy, nor have future generations pay for crap we don’t want anyway.

    Article 4. Rudd and conegers abide by the High Court decision that Australians have an implied right to vote and free speech.

    Article 5. Kev is here to help and so promises to abolish bad laws, paticularly ones he makes, and have sunset clauses on all legislation.

    Article 6. Kev, man of action recognises that the only explicit Constitutional rights Australians have are free interestate trade, equal treatment before the law and freedom from religion. This means freedom from the preferences of moralising gits and paticularly zealous religious lobbies. They of course are free to flagellate themselves.

    That’ll do for the moment.

  19. Tim R, yes it is the pursuit of happiness, but still legally undefinable because it is an umbrella term. You know what they mean, but hard to put a finger on direct specifics and thus easily distortable. How can I pursue happiness if you haven’t paid for my education? etc.

    Right to liberty as compared to incarceration. In other word, everyone one has the right to liberty unless they break the criminal law, or trespass. Right, what will we criminalise?

    I’m all for the fullest protection of liberty against the govt, but some protections are easier to describe than others. You won’t find me arguing against a right to free speech because I trust the pollies to get the balance right.

  20. I agree it’s a general statement. But I wasn’t suggesting this one line could constitute an entire bill of rights.

    The bill itself would need more detail.

    I still hold that the US has had the best system of government ever devised even though it wasn’t perfect and that now it is a pathetic shadow of it’s original intent.

  21. Totally agree Tim. I think their parliament potentially works better too, with the floor crossing and stuff, but I think the price might be the pork-barrelling and so th USG mark II would address that problem.

  22. No, the best parliament is the Federal Parliament of Switzerland- when did you last hear anything from them? If the best government is the least government, they’re in Paradise!

  23. Well Nick, Louis 14 hard a parliament too. So a quiet parliament is not the necessary sign of a limited government.

  24. This is the switch and bait routine! I say government, and Pedro says parliament! Louis 14th would have been the government of the day, with Parlement merely acting as advisers.
    In Switzerland today, Parliament=government=Parliament, et cetera. Your obtuseness must come from your half-whale ancestory.

  25. There is no Bill of Rights, its all an illusion, and when you know the secret conspiracy between lawyers and judges and the courts and politicians; then, you’ll know how to get back what has been taken from you. It’s all a cheating game, and we have been the loser, but now its time to win, and here is how you do it…
    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B-CjH4UcgwuWYTAzZmU0NWYtMGUwZi00MTc3LWE0ZTktYjQ0NWI0ODFjYmMz&hl=en_US

    ——-

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