Monday, July 12, 2010

Rights and virtue

As I sit here in front of my computer, blogging away, I realized I can say pretty much whatever I want. I can write porn. I can bad-mouth whatever government is in power. I can bad-mouth whatever wanna-be government isn't in power. As long as I don't falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theater, or knowingly lie about somebody to their detriment, I can spout off any way I like.

(Sure, there's the credibility factor - see the laughable Fox News - but still.)

This freedom I have comes directly from the Bill of Rights - the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The question is, why weren't those rights initially in the constitution? Why did they have to be added?

The answer is basic to our country: to list basic rights is to limit them - so the "failure" to list them was deliberate. The Bill of Rights was necessary in order to ratify the constitution, and nobody is complaining!, but basically the founders thought that the "people," not some constitution writers, should determine the rights of U.S. citizens. As it turned out, some specific amendments - the 14th and 15th passed by Republicans come to mind - were rather important. But the U.S. Constitution always has been a work in progress. (Or, recently, regress.)

Anyway, the whole idea of a republic is that it be ultimately governed by a people that are intelligent folks of virtue. I rather suspect that the founding fathers never suspected that the very term "virtue" might become a matter of contention.

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