Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

24 March 2017

Judge Neil Gorsuch Says the Declaration of Independence Is Not Foundational Law

Under questioning by Ben Sasse, Republican Senator from Nebraska, Judge Neil Gorsuch said that the Constitution is the foundational law.  The Declaration of Independence is not, though it is informative of the background of the Constitution and should not be lightly discarded.  Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch did not discuss the fact that the Declaration of Independence is the primary statement of the philosophy behind the Constitution.  He neglected to say that the Declaration of Independence is the American document that defines the legitimate purpose of government -- the protection of the rights of the individual.

It is the Declaration of Independence that makes it clear that sovereignty resides in the individual, not in government.  Government exists to serve the sovereign individual, the holder of rights.  The individual and his rights exist whether government does or not.  Government does not define individual rights.  It is the nature of man and his need to survive and flourish in life that define individual rights.  An understanding of this is absolutely necessary to make it possible for government to fulfill its legitimate purpose in protecting everyone's individual rights.

The Bill of Rights enumerated some individual rights.  Yet that same document, in the 9th Amendment, made it crystal clear that the enumeration of individual rights was incomplete and that the federal government was not "to deny or disparage the other rights retained by the people." Unfortunately, the federal courts have attributed almost no protections to individual rights under this 9th Amendment, having virtually ignored the broad scope of individual rights acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence as those of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The 14th Amendment also recognizes the broad individual rights of citizens: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Absent the context of preexisting and preeminent individual rights, the protections of those rights by the government are bound to be haphazard at best.  More likely, the government itself will become the greatest threat to individual rights.  The fact that the Declaration of Independence is not considered a foundational document in the law drastically undermines our understanding of the purpose of government, its proper limits, and the effectiveness of the Constitution to fulfill its contract with the people to provide "a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, ..."

It is very disturbing when politicians and judges prove themselves to be rudderless before their essential and only task of protecting individual rights.  There is no way that a knowledge of these individual rights is or can be spelled out by a few short documents.  The Constitution is itself a given document whose meaning is the Law of the Land.  It is not a changing or living document and it must be interpreted in accordance with its original meaning.  When and if one cannot do that, it should be amended.

What is living and evolving is our understanding of individual rights.  The Constitution literally makes it clear that we are to see to it that the government protects everyone's equal individual rights as these rights are understood in terms of man's nature and the reality in which he lives.  The use of this understanding of man's rights is not a matter of changing the meaning of the Constitution.  Its meaning was always to provide a very limited government whose purpose was the protection of individual rights.  There is no other interpretation of the Constitution which is self-consistent, rational, and legitimate.

Freedom of speech has evolved since the time of the Constitution's adoption as the Law of the Land. It still means that one has the right to say what one wants to those within hearing range, but it also now means that one has the freedom to buy a radio or a television station and say what one wants through that medium, or that one can say what one wants in a video posted to You Tube.  Similarly, property and labor rights have evolved in many ways to include new forms of contracts and new forms of intellectual property.  It has come to be recognized that domestic partnership contracts have to equally recognize the partnerships of two people of the same sex, as well as those of two people of the opposite sex.  Not to do so is a violation of the principle of the equal protection of individual rights necessary to the right to pursue one's happiness.  One can only hope that our broad right to freedom of association will one day be more recognized than it is now.  As these changes have occurred and will continue to occur in our real lives, the 9th and 14th Amendments should be constant as sources of the justification for protecting these individual rights. No change in the Constitution is needed to protect individual rights, despite their evolving nature.

To be clear:  I am not a believer in a living Constitution.  I believe that it is our understanding of individual rights that is changing.  To some degree, those individual rights are themselves evolving as the conditions of man's existence in reality change.  Most of that change is the result of man using his rational faculty to improve and control the world in which he lives.  We need judges throughout our judicial system who understand that the Constitution itself should be interpreted literally and always in such a manner as to maximize the protection of individual rights.  These same judges should be open to understanding our individual rights and prepared to expand their range.  It is not the Constitution which is the primary basis for rational law.  The primary basis is the protection of individual rights.  The Constitution is an important and critical tool to limit the powers of government and to direct its actions toward the equal protection of every citizen's many and broad individual rights.  This is the critical context for all valid constitutional law -- indeed for any valid law.

It is sadly the case that Judge Neil Gorsuch seems to defer too much to any existing law and any prior interpretation of the law whether or not they violate these principles of legitimate government.  It appears that Justice Clarence Thomas will remain the best of the Supreme Court justices.

No comments: