The True Value of the Bill of Rights

One thing you can always count on here in the United States is that whenever a man made tragedy occurs, a sizable portion of the population will blame the Bill of Rights. Within my lifetime the most egregious example of this occurred after the 9/11 attacks. Citing the need to protect the citizenry, the United States government picked up its systemic campaign against the Bill of Rights with a renewed zeal. Although some of the actions taken during that campaign were later reversed, the citizenry ended up with fewer rights post-9/11 than it had pre-9/11. But this campaign against the Bill of Rights isn’t unique to tragedies similar in scale to the 9/11 attacks. It manifests after pretty much every man made tragedy that receives national attention.

I’ve made my opinions of the United States government, and every other government, very clear. I believe that government as a concept is awful and should be done away with. Anarchy, the state of not having a state, is far better than giving a handful of individuals absolute power and letting them do whatever they please to everybody else. I also hold a worldview that can be described as egoist. I don’t believe rights are god-given, self-evident, or in any way objective. To me rights are a concept that exist exclusively in the imaginations of individuals. With both said, I believe there is merit in many of the Enlightenment ideas upon which the United States was founded. The idea that a government should be subservient to its people, even if it is an impossible one, is meritorious as is the idea that individuals enjoy certain rights.

For those who haven’t read up on the history of the founding of the United States, the first federal governmental system was codified by the Articles of Confederation (which, despite the name, is unrelated to the Confederate States of America). The Articles of Confederation established a weak federal government and left most sovereignty to the individual states. It didn’t last long. The event that sealed the fate of the Articles of Confederation was Shays’ Rebellion. Even though Shays’ Rebellion was successfully put down by the existing governmental system (specifically Massachusetts’ state militia), power hungry politicians used the event to demand a stronger federal government. This sparked off a debate between two camps: those who wanted a stronger federal government, who are known to us as the Federalists, and those who opposed the idea, who are known to us as the Anti-Federalists.

The Anti-Federalists pointed out, correctly as we known with the benefit of hindsight, that the federal government then being proposed by the Federalists would eventually become tyrannical. While the Anti-Federalists weren’t able to stop the creation of a strong federal government, they did managed to get a concession: the Bill of Rights. As I’ve explained on this blog numerous times, the Bill of Rights failed to restrain the federal government. But that’s not to say it was a complete failure. The Bill of Rights at least slowed the rate at which federal power expanded. It accomplished this by requiring the federal government to address the Bill of Rights whenever it expanded its power over territory addressed by the Bill of Rights. Since the Constitution gave the federal government ultimate authority over interpreting the Constitution, those addresses usually ended with the federal government authorizing its own expansion of power. But once in a while a judiciary stomped down an attempted expansion or at least established a number of caveats. What so-called rights we enjoy today are the caveats established by those rare judiciaries that didn’t rubber stamp whatever the federal government was authorizing itself to do.

Fortunately, the legacy of the Anti-Federalists continues. Even today after most of the so-called rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights have been caveated into near nonexistence, debates about rights are still generally over degrees. Most debates about speech aren’t about whether an individual has a right to free expression; it’s taken for granted that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of expression. Instead the debates are about how far free expression can go before it no longer falls under the protection of the First Amendment. While the difference is minor in the long run, the fact that the debate is framed in a way that free expression is guaranteed has kept it in a state of slow erosion instead of immediate annihilation.

Had the Anti-Federalists not managed to get the Bill of Rights included in the Constitution, we would likely live in a different political world.

Without the First Amendment, we would likely be subjected to an extensive list of prohibited forms of expression that ranged from criticism of the government to pornography. The question of who qualified as a journalist would likely be answered and the answer would be only individuals credentialed by the federal government (or maybe even the state governments if the federal government was feeling especially generous).

Without the Second Amendment, there would likely be no debate over what types of firearms an individual is allowed to own. All individual gun ownership would likely be prohibited.

Without the Fourth Amendment, law enforcers would likely be able to conduct random searches of your dwelling without even needing to make up probable cause to get a warrant. Civil forfeiture, where property can be seized if a law enforcer so much as suspects it’s related to a drug crime, would be the norm rather than the exception.

Without the Fifth Amendment, there would likely be no limit to the number of times an individual could be charged with the same crime. The state would be free to bring the same charges for the same crimes against an individual as many times as it needed to get a conviction.

But that wouldn’t matter because without the Sixth Amendment, individuals charged with a crime would likely not enjoy a trial by jury. While the jury system here in the United has flaws (many flaws), it’s still a step up from a Star Chamber.

The true value of the Bill of Rights is that it puts the federal government into an awkward position. In order to maintain the illusion that it is governed by a system of laws (which is the illusion upon which its legitimacy in the eyes of the masses is built), it cannot simply pass a law that curtails an enumerated right. Maintaining that illusion requires that any law curtailing a right must be accompanied by a lengthy campaign to convince the masses that the amendment or amendments that address that right don’t actually mean what they say. Furthermore, the illusion requires the federal government to entertain challenges to the law on constitutional grounds. Once in a while the federal government even needs to temporarily concede ground and wait for a more opportune time to curtail that right.

Had human imagination never conceived of the destructive force we call government or had the majority dismissed the it for the bad idea it is, the Bill of Rights and similar declarations of rights would be of little value. But we live in a world where the majority share a mass delusion, a delusion that says we need to vest power in a handful of individuals to prevent a handful of individuals from taking power. So long as the majority of people suffer from that contradictory delusion, the Bill of Rights and the concept of rights have value even if both are, like government, figments of our imaginations. When you find yourself in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, sometimes the only way to survive is to play a game of make-believe yourself.

Collective Punishment of Automobile Owners

Congress slipped a provision into the infrastructure bill that will requires vehicles developed after 2027 to detect if the driver is drunk:

The U.S. Congress is debating about a massive bill titled “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” and it includes a provision that makes it mandatory for cars in the future to have an advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology. What makes it interesting is that the bill actually stipulates 2027 as the year for its implementation, which is not very far. As Vice points out, these are not retro-fitted devices but actually standard fitments that go in during the manufacturing process.

I can’t wait until even entry level vehicles cost $100,000 (in today’s dollars, not in future dollars severely devalued from today’s money printing efforts) on account of all of the sensors needed to ensure that drivers aren’t drunk, high, tired, infected with a respiratory illness, dizzy, overweight (it takes more fuel to move around more weight and that makes Mother Gaia cry) or otherwise deemed unfit for the road. It’s always nice when politicians in Washington DC decide to punish everybody (in this case by increasing the cost of vehicles) for the actions of a handful of people.

Defining Police

Those who identify themselves as left leaning are screaming about the need to defund the police and replace them with social workers. Those who identify themselves as right leaning are screaming about the rise in crime and blaming it squarely on the policies being advocated by the left. But neither side is stopping to consider the nature of policing. The policies being advocated by leftists assume police are peacekeepers. The policies being advocated by rightists assume police are law enforcers. The truth is police are tasked with both jobs, which creates a problem because the two jobs are mutually exclusive.

You cannot have law enforcers be peacekeepers or vice versa. This is because laws, with only a few exceptions, have nothing to do with peace. Consider the prohibition against cannabis. What tranquility is shattered by individuals growing, selling, buying, and smoking cannabis? None… until it’s made illegal. Once those activities are declared illegal, law enforcers are tasked with initiating violence against anybody growing, selling, buying, or smoking cannabis. Tax evasion is another example. How does avoiding paying taxes interfere with peace? It doesn’t… until law enforcers get involved.

The only way to fix policing is to separate the jobs of peacekeeping and law enforcement. However, this solution will never be achieved through politics because the State depends on one entity performing both jobs. It depends on law enforcers to enforce its will. Without law enforcers the State has no power. But a populace would not normally accept law enforcers with open arms because law enforcers necessarily prey upon the populace (laws exist, after all, to transfer wealth from the masses to the political class). So law enforcers are also assigned the job of peacekeeping. As peacekeepers police are legitimized and accepted by a populace.

While the left screams about the need to defund the police and the right screams about the need to bolster the police know that the only solution is to abolish the State.

Mostly Harmless Opinions

I’m of the opinion that actions speak louder than words. Opportunities for people to turn their talk into action always interest me because it shows me whether somebody is honest about their stated intentions. Needless to say, yesterday’s Trump rally in Minneapolis was such an opportunity.

When the rally was announced I immediately thought of two expressed beliefs. The first is that Trump is the second coming of Hitler and his supporters are Nazis. The second is that Nazis must be destroyed with violence. If one drew a Venn diagram of people who express these beliefs, there would be a lot of overlap. Trump and his supporters coming to town provided the opportunity for the people in that overlap to demonstrate their beliefs.

I was fairly certain that the rally would pass by with minimal violence and from the linked story it appears that my prediction was accurate. There was only one arrest by 23:00 and I have found no serious injuries or deaths reported. If the overlap group was at all sizable and the people composing it were truthful about their beliefs, shouldn’t there have been blood in the streets? Shouldn’t there have been hospitals packed with combatants? Why wasn’t there? I’ve come up with three potential explanations.

The first is that the overlap group is actually quite small. While this is possible, my personal experience leads me to believe this explanation is the least likely.

The second is that the people in that overlap who opine that Nazis must be destroyed with violence don’t actually believe that Trump and his supporters are Nazis. If they believed that, they would have used a significant amount of violence against them.

The third is that the people in that overlap who opine that Trump and his supporters are Nazis don’t actually believe that Nazis must be destroyed with violence.

Regardless of the explanation, yesterday reinforced my belief that a lot of people hold mostly harmless opinions. When the opportunity to act on their words presented itself, they back down faster than Apple after being given the stink eye by China.

Keeping the Slaves in Their Place

Not only is New Zealand punishing gun owners, it is also punishing slaves who expressed themselves improperly:

The United States is unusual in offering near-absolute protection for free speech under the First Amendment. Most other countries—even liberal democracies—have more extensive systems of online and offline censorship. That difference has been on display this week as New Zealand authorities have begun prosecuting people for sharing copies of last week’s white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch and for posting hate speech in the wake of the attack.


Distributing objectionable materials online comes with stiff legal penalties. One man—the 44-year-old owner of an insulation company with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies—has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand’s Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held without bail and could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison for each offense.

If you want to judge some of humanity and find them wanting, go to the comments section of that story and read all of the comments by the fascists who support this nonsense (or, just as bad in my opinion, believe the punishment is too severe but otherwise support the law).

I personally object to the ideas expressed by white supremacists and pretty much every other type of collectivist. I’ll even remove their garbage from my site. However, I object even more strongly against the idea that a government should be allowed to punish somebody for what they say, even if it’s the vilest thing imaginable. But I learned long ago that I’m a rather rare breed because I believe individual freedom trumps the demands of the unwashed masses (often referred to as democracy).

There’s Nothing Worse for a Revolutionary than Victory

There’s nothing worse for a revolutionary than victory.

Consider the plight of the Russian communist revolutionaries. So long as the czarist loyalist remained, the handful of communist factions had a common enemy upon which to focus.

Then the communists won. Without the common foe to unite them, they quickly turned on one another (sorry Mensheviks and anarchists, there’s only room in Moscow for one communist party).

Then the Bolsheviks won. Without external communist foes to unite them, they too turned on one another (GTFO, Trotsky, and take Bukharin and Zinoviev with you).

Then the remaining Bolsheviks realized that without an external enemy, they would have to continue killing each other. So the people were accused of being kulaks and counter-revolutionaries.

The counter-revolutionary is the last refuge of a revolutionary that has run out of foes to kill. It is likely that without the counter-revolutionary, the revolutionary would have to kill himself.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Ars Technica ran this story with the title China’s “democracy” includes mandatory apps, mass chat surveillance. The important part to note is the scare quotes around the word democracy. From the article:

As the National People’s Congress gathers in Beijing for the beginning of China’s “Two Sessions” political season, state media is making an international propaganda push on social media—including on platforms blocked by China’s “Great Firewall”—to promote China’s “system of democracy.”


That system of democracy apparently involves mass surveillance to tap into the will of the people. While China’s growth as a surveillance state has been well-documented, the degree to which the Chinese leadership uses digital tools to shape the national political landscape and to control Chinese citizens has grown even further recently. That’s because authorities have been tapping directly into Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members’ and other Chinese citizens’ online activities and social media profiles.

I’m using the Ars Technica article for illustrative purposes but the general attitude amongst Americans seem to be that China isn’t actually a democracy. However, democracy is a system where voters have the opportunity to gang up against each other. This inevitably results is a paranoid police state where everybody has voted to surveil and punish everybody else.

The primary difference between China and apparently freer democracies is where they started. Take the United States for example. It started with an almost powerless federal government and a strong mythology about individual freedom. It took a great deal of time for voters to first vote a larger government into existence and then vote to wield it against each other. The People’s Republic of China, other the other hand, started with a much more powerful government so there was no delay from voters having to first vote it more power before they could wield it against each other.

The things for which us enlightened people of the glorious Western democracies mock China are in our future. Just look at the massive surveillance apparatuses in the United States and United Kingdom. There is scarcely a thing you can do or a place you can go that isn’t surveilled by some government entity. The Ars Technica article discusses the effort China is putting into propagandizing its party members but the author likely failed to recognize the similarities between those efforts and the efforts in Western public education systems to propagandize young children. While most Western democracies aren’t as overt about controlling their news outlets as China is, all of the major supposedly independent media outlets are little more than government propaganda machines (how else are reporters going to get access to the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room or get themselves invited to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner).

Make not mistake, what we’re witnesses in China today is the endgame of any democratic system. To insinuate that China isn’t a democracy is to misunderstand what a democracy truly is.

96 Dimensional Chess

Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me 500,076 times, still shame on you. Trump has been in the White House for three years and he, despite having broken pretty much every political promise he made, still has zealous supporters. What’s his secret? His secret is that his supporters are very good at self delusion. Whenever news breaks that Trump is ready to support some reduction of state power his supporters are quick to say, “See? I told you he would reduce government!” Then when he fails to follow through his supporter say, “This is just part of his three dimensional chess game against the libtards!”

I’ve lost count of how may dimensions Trump’s chess game supposedly has at this point. I think it’s somewhere around 96 dimensional. But he decided to add an extra dimension yesterday when he reneged on his claim to support pulling American troops out of Syria:

WASHINGTON — Two months after declaring all U.S. troops are leaving Syria, President Donald Trump wrote to members of Congress that he now agrees “100%” with keeping a military presence in Syria.

This news comes as a shock to nobody who has paid attention to his track record.

Of course Trump isn’t unique in this regard. Lies are political capital and finding an honest politician carries worse odds than even the most rigged boxing match. While those who oppose Trump will scream at the top of their lungs about the importance of electing anybody else in 2020, the only thing electing a different president will do is shuffle the same shit around. After all, Trump’s predecessor campaigned on getting the United States out of its endless state of war and ended up getting the country into a few extra wars before his time in office was up.

How Things Have Changed

I’m a huge fan of the Hardcore History and History on Fire podcasts so I was excited when I saw that the hosts, Dan Carlin and Danielle Bolelli respectively, posted a conversation they recently had. The two discussed several things including modern political discourse.

One thing Dan said really resonated with me. He noted that he remembers a time when certain concepts, such as support for freedom of speech, were so close to universal in the United States that you could take them for granted in a political discussion and how he has a difficult time operating in an environment where that is no longer the case. I’m not a very old man but even in my relatively short life I’ve seen some dramatic shifts in political discourse. When I was in college certain near universals still existed including support for freedom of speech (although that was dying) and due process (which was also beginning to die). While an individual may not actually have believed in those concepts, they almost always, especially if they were a politician, paid lip service to them. Today’s world is a different one. Consider this fiasco that just went down here in Minnesota:

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota House committee has passed a proposed “red flag” law that would allow families and police to get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people judged to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Due process, at one time, meant that an individual was only punished after a trial. Today due process isn’t even paid lip service. Rather legislation, of which this is just the latest example (civil forfeiture probably remains the most overt example), blatantly violates the concept of due process. What’s fascinating though is that these violation of due process aren’t met with widespread opposition. Gun owners are opposing this instance for obvious reasons but most people seem to either not care or, worse yet, enthusiastically support it.

I’ve even seen comments from professors who have reported surprise that students have expressed disagreement with the idea that authoritarianism is bad. Even my short life witnessed a time when the concept of authoritarianism was almost universally reviled (if not necessarily in practice, at least in words) here in the United States. Now support for authoritarianism is growing on both sides of the political spectrum.

I make no effort to hide my disgust with politics. Part of my disgust stems from the fact that many previously near universally supported concepts such as freedom of speech are no longer near universal. Expressing support for such concepts in today’s political environment oftentimes leads not just to disagreement but to a complete breakdown of civility (for example, depending on the other person’s political views, you might find yourself being labeled a fascist or a communist). Trying to have a reasoned debate in an environment where no ground rules exist most people appear disinterested in either being civility or establishing ground rules is, frankly, impossible.