Emailing: A Bill of Rights for Our Own Times by Robert Higgs

A Bill of Rights for Our Own Times by Robert Higgs


A Bill
of Rights for Our Own Times

by Robert

by Robert Higgs


Times change,
and a Living Constitution must change with them. Accordingly, I
suggest that modernization of the old Bill of Rights is urgently
required along the following lines.

1. Congress
shall make no law respecting the establishment of fiscal
responsibility; or abridging the freedom of shopping at the mall or
surfing online porn sites; or the right of the people peaceably to
cower in their homes, and to petition the Government for bombing the
Iranians back into the Stone Age if they so much as whisper the
Farsi word for "nuclear."

2. A well
regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
such Militia has no place in our country, wherein the people clamor
not for freedom, but for the illusion of security – besides the old
state militias were effectively incorporated into the national
military establishment by the National Defense Act of 1916, so the
matter is moot. No private person needs a gun; the police have shown
that they can and will protect everybody at all times.

3. No soldier
shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the
consent of the Department of Defense, nor in time of war, but in a
manner to be prescribed by the president or, if he be a moron, by
the scheming vice president lurking behind the throne.

4. The right of
the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated unless the government wants to violate this right for
national-security or other half-plausible reasons, and no Warrants
shall issue, period, because a self-issued warrant known as a
National Security Letter, written by any FBI agent with or without a
good reason, will do just as well, maybe better, for the government,
allowing the judges to get out to the golf course by mid-afternoon
at latest.

5. No person
shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous
crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury or if the
government labels him an unlawful enemy combatant or a material
witness to something or other; nor shall any person be subject for
the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb unless
the judge lets the prosecutor get away with the imposition of such
double jeopardy; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a
witness against himself unless waterboarded till he confesses to
every crime known to man; nor shall be deprived of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law, so the government must go
through certain make-believe motions as a pretense of fair dealing;
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just
compensation, unless corrupt local officials have entered into a
sweetheart deal with real-estate developers who want somebody’s
house or business for their own private profit-seeking use, in which
case all bets are off.

6. In all
criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district
wherein the crime shall have been committed, shall be informed of
the nature and cause of the accusation, shall be confronted with
witnesses against him, shall have compulsory process for obtaining
witnesses in his favor, and shall have the Assistance of Counsel for
his defense, except when the government has declared him subject to
the Military Commissions Act or peremptorily hauled him off to
Guantánamo or Egypt or Bulgaria or some other hellhole where he will
be tortured until he wishes he had never been born and tells his
assailants whatever he can imagine might make them stop hurting

7. In suits at common law, where the value
in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by
jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be
otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than
according to the rules of the common law – but if anybody thinks
this provision will help him escape the clutches of an ambitious
prosecutor itching for higher office, then he sure as hell hasn’t
had much experience in the courts.

8. Excessive
bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel
and unusual punishments inflicted except when the judge, not liking
the looks of the accused, decides to throw the book at him to
impress the law-and-order conservatives who for some reason imagine
that only scumbags and ethnic Untermenschen ever become entangled in
the legal system’s arbitrary, capricious, and cruel web.

9. Only an
ink blot appears here (formerly, before the ink blotted, it appears
to have read, "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain
rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained
by the people," but no one now living can imagine what such words
might have meant).

10. Only an ink
blot appears here, too (formerly, before the ink blotted, it appears
to have read, "the powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to
the states respectively, or to the people," but such a provision
makes no sense whatever, because had it been in effect, it would
have prohibited virtually everything the national government has
done routinely for the past century or more).

January 21, 2008

Higgs [send him mail] is
senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and
editor of
The Independent
. His most recent book is Neither
Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of
. He is also the author of Depression,
War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy
, Resurgence
of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11
and Against
Leviathan: Government Power and a Free

Copyright © 2008 Robert Higgs

Robert Higgs





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