Saturday, June 18, 2005

Interesting Things about Bills of Rights

I support individual rights
I'm always having folks point me to new things on-line, and this above site is courtesy of Sunni ( and is of considerable interest, because it shows a willingness to keep minor differences in philosophy from interfering with useful cooperative efforts. One thing of interest I noticed was the list of "Documents Which Encompass Human Rights" and their disclaimer: "Inclusion of a document on this list does not imply agreement with the entire document. These are just examples of documents that recognize individual rights." They list six.

I of course have a certain fondness for the United States' Bill of Rights (US-BOR) (which tops the list) - due to ancestry, raising, my own free acceptance of an obligation to defend and protect it, and my day-to-day life under its protections, but I am readily willing to admit that it has its flaws. My state's (South Dakota's) Bill of Right [sic] is better: more specific, more forthright and in keeping with the spirit of the Declaration of Independence itself, although it shares some flaws with the US version. These include no enforcement mechanism except the courts (what a laughable concept THAT is, in view of 220+ years of history), the right to keep and bear arms, and (in SD's case, only) the statement of the inherent right of the people to reform or abolish the government. It also resides within the context of the entire Constitution, and as recent court decisions have again reminded us, that venerable document contains loopholes large enough (sadly) to drive an entire PanzerArmee through. The other documents I look on with decreasing pleasure: starting with the next oldest, the French "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" (DRMC), which you can find at ( This little piece of statist disinformation, with its meandering about "law" and "nation" and "society" is far worse than (and three times as long as) the US-BOR (especially its morbid fascination with "law"). While no more followed by successive French governments that the BOR is by the present American government branches, is far more able to be subverted (as those same French governments have demonstrated time and again). Its Gallic influence is seen in the current European Union's failed constitution.

It is not all bad, of course, and has some definite flairs in places, as in Article 4:
"Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law. "

However, this is immediately offset by the very next article: "5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law."Which is the measure? Persons or society? If it said, "Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to others" it would be consistent with itself, at least. The last phrase of the second sentence - at first I thought it had no redeeming features at all, but maybe if it said, "No one may be forced to do anything." it might make sense.

Oh, and no right to keep and bear arms or to replace the government.

The next is the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." (UDHR) Again, it is easy to see the influence of the French document in it, as well as to see its influence on the EU. And again, it sounds very pretty, but has no enforcement except a very oblique reference in the preamble: "Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law," - but we know how much good THAT has done. But as you read through its THIRTY articles (as compared to 17 in the DRHC and 10 in the US-BOR), you find that what the UN, even in 1948, considered "rights" sound like excuses for the existence of the state and its power: "social security" is a right; "food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services" are rights, "employment" is a right. (It is very interesting, though, in light of the worldwide clamor over same-sex marriage, to note that this document clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman: "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family." (Article 16) There might be in there a right to plural marriages, but not to homosexual ones.) And some of the so-called "rights" are anything BUT rights: the most prominent one is in Article 26: "Elementary education shall be compulsory." And as you might imagine, no right to keep and bear arms. All in all, a worthless piece of paper, as germane to world history in the past 57 years as the location of Alexander's tomb.

The next is the 1982 "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" found at ( It starts out with two sick jokes to anyone who knows governments and Canada in the last 25 years. "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law..." - It may have been founded upon God, but the effort in the last quarter century has been to disassociate itself from God as much as possible - especially the God of the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions of its founders. The next joke is worse, though (and the EU closely followed this in their botched attempt at a bill of rights): "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." In other words, folks, don't bother with the rest of it: "reasonable limits" and "demonstrations justification" are defined by either a one-vote majority in Commons or a one-vote majority of appointees to the High Bench. There ARE no freedoms and rights except as the powers-that-be are willing to let people have. And of course, there are no provisions for enforcement. And we are up to 34 Articles, although admittedly several of the articles deal with the unique English-French "multicultural" of Canada. At least (although they are meaningless, as I said) there are a few familiar rights that we south of the border recognize, such as banning self-incriminating and double-jeopardy. But no right to keep and bear arms, as Canadians are learning right now.

The last two documents listed are "The Australian Privacy Charter" and the "World Passport" - both of which are dream documents and about as applicable to real life as the EU's dead constitution, so I won't go into any detail. The Australian thing has at least one good article though: "People should have the option of not identifying themselves when entering transactions." Of course it is weasely "should" is not the same as saying: "No person shall be forced, under penalty of law, to identify themselves when entering transactions." If you are curious, go to: Please note, Australia HAS NO "Bill of Rights" except for tenuous claims to the old British one from 1688, because they are in allegiance to H.M. Queen Elizabeth, second of that name.

The "World Passport" ( is my opinion is a piece of garbage and does not belong in the links at all. It purports to support the right of free travel around the world, but that is a crock, to put it mildly. Whether your "papers" (as in "May I see your papers, please, comrade.") are issued by a wanna-be world government or a national government or a local dog-catcher/tyrant - they are still an affront to human liberty and dignity and deserve to be treated like any other attempt at slavery. Freedom to travel has to apply to anyone with or without papers or it is meaningless, in the long term (and often in the very short term, as well - try catching a plane in the USA today.) It is also, apparently, something of a scam, like International Drivers Licenses (not International Driving Permits) and claims that citing the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) will make the IRS back off.

The point is, there is not YET (and probably won't ever be) a "perfect" Bill of Rights, and attempts to define more and more rights specifically lead to all kinds of garbage. Bills of rights exist to limit the powers of government, NOT to establish or "give" rights to people, so maybe the entire concept of bills of rights is flawed. Maybe it would have been better if the Founding Fathers had entitled this "PROHIBITIONS ON ANY GOVERNMENT" and (of course) provided a mechanism for enforcement. But I fear that any human government beyond that of a small, voluntary membership (like that of a church congregation) is doomed to eventually try to take away every right - and this kind of thing just facilitiates that.

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