TED Conversations

Dale Farnan

This conversation is closed.

Is the United States Bill of Rights out of date?

I will use the first and second amendments as examples.

The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. When the bill of rights was created, weaponry was obviously not as advanced as it is now (muskets were the predominant weapon in the American revolutionary war). Did the founding fathers intend the second amendment to protect rocket launchers and assault rifles?

The first amendment guarantees the right to free speech. This has been cited to protect (for example) huge donations and TV advertisements for elections. The politicians become dependent on these advertisements and donations to win. They must appease the companies that fund their campaign, not the people. This process of corruption is protected by the first amendment; the companies say “We’re allowed to support who we want to win, right? What are advertisements but speech supporting someone?” The first amendment indirectly leads to politicians being controlled by the corporations who fund their campaigns. The founding fathers did not know this would be the case when they wrote the bill of rights.

Is the United States Bill of Rights out of date? Should it be changed? If so, how will a divided government unite enough to be able to do this?

Share:
  • Sep 6 2013: The Founders said "arms". "Arms" in that day would have included cannons. The Founders intended all "arms" to fall under that Amendment. That being said, the founders expressed themselves in the context of "a well-regulated militia". Most gun owners in the present day do not, in any way, belong to a "well-regulated militia". However, nobody wants to go there. The abuse of the First Amendment is not part of the First Amendment. It is, instead, a result of the illegitimate "corporate person" non-decision. Corporations are not human beings, but they are accorded rights as if they were. That is the problem. What about the rest of those amendments?
    In particular, what about the 9th Amendment?
  • thumb
    Sep 6 2013: The Bill of Rights exists in the form of AMENDMENTS to the Constitution. Being an amendable document the Constitution is as if alive, breathing, changing, adapting. So far 27 amendments have been ratified. If the answer to your question is "Yes", then due process will begin and the next one will happen.
  • Sep 12 2013: I see where you are going with this. Look man, we need to start with INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY (morals, values, etc.) to fix the problems that exist. It needs to be taught YOUNG!
  • thumb
    Sep 10 2013: Mr Farnan,

    About 12 hours before this post, a very complete critical analysis of the bill of rights was offered. You got great cliff notes on the subject.... Read them and so should all those who have concerns that the Bill of Rights are outdated.

    Most of your comments are not problems of the Bill of Rights but violations of the Bill of Rights that go unpunished.
    You should probably study the values of term limits for career congressmen, the recognition that current "lobbying of Congress and the Federal Administration" is out right bribery of public officials and should so be prosecuted.
    You might consider that the 17th Amendment that changed the nature of two houses of congress into a parliamentary style of government that has done more to conflict the congress then any other factor. Before the 17th, Senators were to represent states and not political elections.
    SCOTUS has recently ruled that the 16th gave congress no restrictions on how and/or what they could
    tax, Many people blamed SCOTUS for this ruling, but if you look at the 16th.... I would rule that way.

    There are a number of amendments that have weakened the intent of the Constitution and "interpretations" to modernize it. And this is what should scare the hell out of Americans.

    We should learn from history. If you compare a history of the Roman Empire and the USA, it matches in too many scary ways.
  • Sep 9 2013: Nothing is ever "all about the 14th Amendment". None of my Civics classes were. You only make yourself look even stupider by making such claims. The Federalists wrote up the Bill of Rights as a sop to the anti-Federalists, who were worried that lack of enumeration would be used as an excuse to protect no rights at all. The Federalists argued this on two points.
    1: Enumeration would lead to the belief that lack of enumeration would disparage the existence of all rights not explicitly enumerated. They were correct. The majority of Americans, liberals and conservatives, are so dim that they believe that lack of enumeration of a right in the Constitution does disparage its existence, even though the 9th Amendment says otherwise.
    2: Since the Constitution was written in a way that explicitly stated powers of government were "granted" or otherwise given and NOT innate to government, there was no need to write such protections in, since government would always be cautious in its acts. They were wrong. Remarkably soon after the Constitution was ratified, the Federal government began acting as if it had innate sovereignty, not exclusively delimited and granted powers (cf, "Bank of the United States" and the "Sedition Acts").
    Regarding the individual Amendments:
    1: The Crown and Parliament had a long history of favoring the Established Church and restricting speech arbitrarily. Given the broader religious diversity of the United States and a very bad history of Crown interference in the press and pamphlets, this was a no-brainer.
    2: The first overtly military act the Crown took against the Patriots was attempted seizure of militia stores. The militias, while not much use in stand-up fights vs. Crown armies or mercenaries, were still vital in home security and garrison duty during the Revolution. Since the USA was not supposed to have a standing army, they were supposed to be a ready reserve.
    See next message...
  • Sep 9 2013: Roughly 200 years ago "local law enforcement" consisted entirely of local citizens who were locally elected. Professional police were invented decades after the Constitution was written. Thus, the "local law enforcement" was the same bunch of guys who were popular enough to be elected local militia commanders. The sheriff was a locally-elected official with no external requirements other than popularity.

    That's something that your propagandizers don't want you to know.
  • Sep 9 2013: I think we need to interpret it in the spirit it was INTENDED:
    1. The individual has a right to own a weapon for the purpose of self defense.
    2. The individual has a right to state his or her opinion without fear of persecution.
    The problem is corrupt lawyers and politicians, that twist the words to abuse it for profit. We the people should have a right to hold them accountable IN FULL.
    • Sep 9 2013: The original spirit of the 2nd Amendment included organized militias, which were under local command except in time of emergency, when the state's governor could command them. Militias were not under command of the USA. Now, is that what you mean?
      • Sep 9 2013: I thought they were intended as deputies under command of local law enforcement sheriff and governed by law. It was never the intention that people create armed gangs and organize pogroms for the Klan.
        • Sep 9 2013: Roughly 200 years ago "local law enforcement" consisted entirely of local citizens who were locally elected. Professional police were invented decades after the Constitution was written. Thus, the "local law enforcement" was the same bunch of guys who were popular enough to be elected local militia commanders. The sheriff was a locally-elected official with no external requirements other than popularity.

          That's something that your propagandizers don't want you to know.
  • thumb
    Sep 8 2013: This conversation has come up again! What is this... the tenth time in the last ten months?

    There seems to be two schools of thought on this subject and both respond to these conversations each time.

    There are those who have an understanding of the US Constitution and it's place in history as one of the most important political documents ever written.

    Then there are those who unfortunately have no understanding or knowledge of the Constitution or it's meaning of the American way of life. I can forgive those who were born in other lands where they were not afforded access to our Constitution... and then there are those who were born in America after 1960. That was about the time that public schools stop teaching "Civics".
    Today's youth have almost no knowledge of our American Government and most can't even spell "civics" !

    So, here we are again defending the constitution. To whom? And is it worth the effort? Talking to a wall would be more effective. That's what I'm going to do.
    • thumb
      Sep 9 2013: Sorry if I missed the points made in earlier conversations. I am obviously not an expert on the constitution (although I can spell civics) so if you could educate me instead of talking to a wall that would be wonderful.
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: I guess you deserve that.
        Your debate was ill conceived and the premises shows a lack of understanding of the constitution and it's meaning and implications.

        I am happy you can spell civics, It's that you don't seem to understand it.

        So, go back and study the constitution, read the federalist papers and the anti federalist papers.
        Study American History from 1750 to 1820 and all the players aka the founding fathers.

        If you want to debate the constitution consider that amendments have been made that have weaken the original constitution and are straining the fabric of the federation of the many states.
        Now that would be a debate.
    • Sep 9 2013: I went to school starting in 1971. I got several years of Civics in that time.
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: 1971
        You got bupkiss for your civics class... it was all about the 14th Amendment

        But....

        OK, Why did the anti federalists get the 10 of 11 Amendments into the original constitution and when the the 11th pass?
        • Sep 9 2013: My Civics class was not all about the 14th Amendment.

          As for the Amendments, the Anti-Federalists were frightened that lacking specific enumeration of rights, the government would forget that it was a government of strictly granted powers and had no innate sovereignty. They were right. However, the Federalists were also right in two of their great fears, to be addressed below. By the way, Mr. know-it-nothing, there were TWELVE original Amendments, not eleven. In the order they were ratified:

          1. Parliament had a long history of interfering with the press and pamphleteers. Likewise, it highly favored the Established Church fiscally and politically. Thus, these two issues were still sore spots among the Anti-Federalists, who wished to ensure they would never happen again. Likewise, there was squabbling among Congregationalists (New England), Episcopalians (South and Middle), Friends (Pennsylvania), Catholics (Maryland and elsewhere), et al. Thus, the central government had to be prohibited from establishing a church.

          2. The first large-scale military act Parliament took against the colonies was attempted seizure of militia stores, although there were other problems, as well. Likewise, the USA was NEVER supposed to have a standing army. Therefore, guaranteeing a militia both eased the fears of Anti-Federalists and ensured that there was an emergency reserve that had, at least, very basic familiarity (extremely basic--militias were crap in all our wars and remained crap until they got trained up to regular levels) with military matters. Militias also provided a police reserve, fire brigade, etc.

          3. Parliament had a very bad habit of not respecting property rights in the colonies. Thus, they appropriated private property for military purposes, without compensation or choice. Even though the USA was not to have standing army, this still was a sore spot and was, therefore, prohibited.

          Next message...
        • Sep 9 2013: 4. Again, Parliament and their officials had a habit of simply seizing what they wanted and searching however they wanted. By the time of the Revolution, the colonies were essentially a military occupation, with all the attendant results. Requiring a warrant upon probable cause was supposed to prevent frivolous or personally-motivated "investigations". Authorities were supposed to show that some crime had actually been committed and not just go "fishing".

          5. Requiring the Grand Jury was to prevent "Court of Star Chamber" like events or "Admiralty" type courts from threatening Americans with the death penalty or other severe punishments on their own authority. Grand Juries have to be assembled from local citizens. Without this protection, administrators could simply decide to prosecute on their whim--which is what often happens today in the USA, anyway, now that Grand Juries are just rubber stamps. The double jeopardy prohibition also addressed a previous abuse, wherein someone not convicted would just be re-tried. Prohibition against compulsory self-incrimination was to eliminate use of torture to extract false confessions. Protection of life, liberty, and property by due process both addressed previous abuses and was the first that the FUNDAMENTAL rights of the Enlightenment were explicitly enshrined in the Constitution.

          Next message...
        • Sep 9 2013: 6. This addresses several of the abuses of courts under the colonies, both colonial courts and Crown courts. The various rights herein stated are those that were often violated. Accused could languish for years without trial. Verdicts came from the accuser or the accuser's underlings. Charges were not explained--that is, trials were not always for specific violations of specific laws. Witnesses could just make a statement and go--no questions asked. It was easy for defense witnesses to be prevented from testifying by government. Even the well-off would, on occasion, be denied counsel.

          7. Again, this answered a current or recent abuse--it ensured that, when the stakes were high, the matter was judged by a jury and could not be flatly overruled by a judge. It was not uncommon for someone acquitted by a jury to, if the other side were influential, find the matter reversed rather quickly by a judge who didn't follow the common law rules of appeal.

          8. Torture and indentured servitude were used as punishments by the British during the Revolution. Likewise, it could happen that a judge would levy ridiculous fines simply to personally ruin someone.

          9. This is my favorite amendment. I like to call this the Federalist Bill of Rights. While the Anti-Federalists insisted that rights had to be enumerated, the Federalists argued that enumerating rights would be used to disparage the existence of rights not so enumerated. Thus, to answer this objection to a Bill of Rights, this spells out that the existence of a Bill of Rights does not mean that a right must be enumerated to exist. Right to privacy? Whether or not it is listed in the Constitution DOES NOT determine whether or not it exists. The 9th Amendment makes that plain.

          Next Message
        • Sep 9 2013: 10. Not all Anti-Federalists cared a damn about individual rights. Some of them really just wanted to keep a confederacy of 13 sovereign states. This was a bone thrown to them. However, it does underline the fear that centralization would overtake Constitutional limits on power. Thus, all powers (note "powers", not "rights") not EXPLICITLY granted to the Federal government still belonged to the states or the people. It was supposed to keep the Federal government from sticking in its nose where unwanted.

          11. This was passed in the 1990s, early in the 1990s. It was supposed to prevent Congress from using its position to enrich itself. By the time it actually happened, it was just a symbolic gesture, since the real money comes from cushy lobbying jobs after one is done with Congress or from other "business deals".

          12. Never passed. It was supposed to ensure "just" or "fair" representation in Congress. It would have made for a gigantic Congress.

          Of the 10 Amendments originally passed, nine are now routinely violated by the Federal government to some extent or another. In particular, the 9th fares the worst, followed by the 10th. The 1st is more subtly violated (free speech provisions) and oddly stretched in its religious provisions. The 2nd is routinely violated. However, I would remind states' rightists that, provisions such as the 1st Amendment's anti-establishment clause ought not apply to the states, then the 2nd Amendment also ought not apply to the states--can't cherry-pick. Fourth is shredded, "public" gets redefined so often that in my bathroom, with all doors and windows locked will one day be ruled a "public space", not subject to the 4th Amendment. Remember, your driveway, behind a fence, with a closed gate, now counts as "public" in terms of whether or not the cops need a warrant to put a tracker on your car.

          Next message...
        • Sep 9 2013: So, on to the Fifth: Yes, the anti-incrimination clause is still enforced, however, due process no longer exists for property. "Civil forfeiture" and "eminent domain" means that government can seize property whenever it feels like it, for no reason at all, and threaten you with prison if you object. PS: This is usually done in the name of "law and order" or "war on drugs" or "development", not for explicitly leftist causes. Sixth? The law is now so complex that it is often that a defendant doesn't understand the charge against him and would have to be an attorney to understand it. Speedy trials are often denied. Seventh: Verdicts get overturned on causes that don't even adhere to basic common sense, much less common law. Eight: Just look at what gets levied against people for the most trifling of acts (selling milk not in accordance to a pack of monopoly-supporting regulations, for example). Nine: Conservatives hate this amendment, with their constant harping of "Where is that right in the Constitution." Congress and the courts pretend this amendment doesn't exist. Ten: Liberals hate this amendment, since is points out their beloved central government isn't supposed to be omnipotent--doesn't stop the Feds from extending their powers ridiculously, cf, Wickert v. Filburn.

          PS: I am the product of a public school education.
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: Very good.

        But, I only asked the amendments passed not offered.

        Edited:
        I was called away before I could further comment
        Your analysis is not what's offered in any K-12 public school that I am aware.
        And that was my point. Most high school graduates and too many college students have
        little or no understanding or appreciation for the Constitution and Early American History..
        In fact the disinformation is mind boggling as you can see in some of these comments.
  • Sep 7 2013: No! It is not out of date.
    It is just out of practice by those WHO ARE THE CONSTITUTION, the actual people of the Republic.
    If you don't have a right to bear arms, then get ready for Sharia law to come to America,
    where you won't have a right to even bare arms.
    • thumb
      Sep 8 2013: I don't believe Sharia law is ever going to come to America. It's ridiculous claims such as this that add a tinge of lunacy to otherwise legitimate fears.
  • thumb
    Sep 7 2013: "If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens."

    -- Alexander Hamilton, 1788

    "Instances of the licentious and outrageous behavior of the military conservators of the peace still multiply upon us, some of which are of such nature, and have been carried to such lengths, as must serve fully to evince that a late vote of this town, calling upon its inhabitants to provide themselves with arms for their defense, was a measure as prudent as it was legal: such violences are always to be apprehended from military troops, when quartered in the body of a populous city; but more especially so, when they are led to believe that they are become necessary to awe a spirit of rebellion, injuriously said to be existing therein. It is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defence; and as Mr. Blackstone observes, it is to be made use of when the sanctions of society and law are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression."

    -- "Boston, March 17". N. Y. J., Supplement: 1, Col.3. April 13, 1769. qtd. in Halbrook, A Right to Bear Arms, p. 7.

    Usually when I speak up to defend the Second Amendment, I try to compare it to the First. Though here I see you may be against that as well.
  • thumb
    Sep 7 2013: The second amendment is a two way street, i.e. the purpose is to have the natural right to defend yourself. If Obama creates an army to be used against the citizens that consists of drones armed with Gatling guns, how can you blame someone for wanting to have an AR-15?

    The first amendment is easily as much abused by the public unions as the corporations. Either way citizens are afforded the right to redress congress of their grievances.

    To me the most abused amendment is the 10th amendment. As it's abuse strikes directly at the very fabric of the Republic. This has lead to the real problem which is the size of the federal government. If the government was smaller it's "peccadilloes" would not enslave the citizens.

    Before you could say the constitution needs to be changed you would first need try the constitution as it was written by some pretty wise fellows.

    A better discussion would be what is the purpose and function of the constitution.
    • thumb
      Sep 7 2013: The 16th amendment is fairly abused.
    • Sep 7 2013: Except that the AR-15s are about as effective against a modern army as water gun is against an army of AR-15s.

      The original purpose is now moot, because with the advance of military technology and logistics, a civilian militia is completely helpless against a modern military. What exactly are you going to do with an assault rifle when a tank rolls up, or a howitzer is firing at your position from 50 kilometers away?

      So now you're both unable to resist tyranny, and have everyone armed to teeth, including all the nut jobs that weren't diagnosed properly. This is why you see people "going postal" so much more in the US than in other parts of the world. In most places, they only manage to do rather minimal damage with a knife or club.
      • thumb
        Sep 8 2013: Looking at the words of Alexander Hamilton...

        "If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens."

        ... it appears that if there were fears of tyranny legitimizing the 2nd Amendment, then the right to bare arms was meant to guarantee that state and private militias would bare equal arms to those of their potential oppressors. The fact that tanks and rocket launchers are illegal for civilian use only stifles this right. I would consider the ban of conventional weapons to be an attack on the right to bare arms, not a justification for the right no longer being necessary.
        • Sep 8 2013: I'm not saying unnecessary, I'm saying impractical. The only way to compete with a modern, well trained military in a straight up fight is with another, modern well trained military.
          Unless you want the US to start funding two separate military groups one government, one not, that's simply not practical.

          You know what, I will go as far as saying its unnecessary.
          Its a bad idea to have any body with the military capacity to challenge the government. That's how you get civil wars. In fact, the US had one already, and it nearly tore it in two.

          The concept of "monopoly on violence" is a crucial one for any state to function as a state. Otherwise it just breaks down when minorities (political, ethnic or religious) realize they can take what they want with force of arms more easily than by negotiating with the government, up to and including independence.

          Frankly, I can think of no other first world country where gun ownership is so widespread or so legal for civilians. And they all do just fine without it.
          Third world countries though... plenty. Armed militias (with varying degrees of military organization and equipment--the things that allow them to challenge governments) are one of the things keeping many of these countries in the third world bracket.
      • thumb
        Sep 8 2013: We may have to agree to disagree. You advocate a monopoly on violence, and I advocate a balance of powers. Civil war is what gave the Parliament power in England, and abolished slavery in the US. In one of those cases the rebels won, and in the other case, the Federation. But both were excellent examples of rights being won with bloodshed.
        • Sep 8 2013: Civil war has no place in a modern democracy, where such things can be solved without bloodshed by just waiting for the next election. That's actually one of the main strengths of a democratic regime--once its set up properly (democratic tradition and everything, not just parties and votes), violent overthrow of the government is more or less unheard of.

          For every civil war that has led to improvement like the English Parliament, you have a dozen that replaced one regime with another just as bad or worse.
          Combined with all the damage to both economy and lives that a civil war entails, and it takes a fairly major improvement to be worth it in the end.

          The exception is secessions, which tend to work out better if they work at all, but those are actively bad for a nation as a whole (especially given it won't stay whole). Anything that makes secession easier makes the original country less stable by default.
          Still better to do it diplomatically rather than by violence if at all possible, but even in a modern democracy, its not always possible.
      • thumb
        Sep 8 2013: Do you care to give some examples? Say, a morally just democracy overthrown by a revolt and replaced with a corrupt regime? The American, English and French revolutions tell a different story, and have given us the democratic world we enjoy today. I referenced a quote earlier by Thomas Jefferson-

        "... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms ... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

        - there's the full quote earlier in this conversation in response to Krisztián Pintér. Sure we have plenty of examples of corrupt regimes being overthrown and replaced by corrupt regimes. And we have great examples of a monopoly on violence yielding horrible results, North Korea for instance. How about an example of a utopia overthrown?

        What's a modern democracy? In the US we have a republic where one branch of the government consists of representatives soley elected by the constintuency. This balances the Executive branch, which has historicly, administration after administration, sought to expand its power. It's been three human lifetimes, back-to-back, since the American colonists established their democratic nation. And already, in really very little time, the country has grown into a different beast altogether. The US today is almost the very global hegemon it originally revolted against. Arguably its power today is greater than the British empire ever was, and looking at the tight cohesion of American, British and Australian intelligence agencies, it appears as if this empire is still in existence, in a newer, more modern form.

        Looking back on history within the span of a single human lifetime, we see the Holocaust, and Adolf Hitler making an attempt to dominate Europe. I suggest it's dangerous to believe humanity has moved on from this kind of tyranny,
        • Sep 9 2013: As you've said, plenty of examples of one tyranny being replaced with another.
          I can't for the life of me think of a proper democratic regime where such a thing has happened though. The French revolution, English civil war and American war of independence were all fought against monarchies of different types.

          Monopoly on violence is crucial for a state to function as a state. It doesn't make it a good state, its just necessary for it to exist as a state at all.
          Lack of monopoly on violence makes it easier to topple a regime and break apart the state. All in all, bad for stability. Whether that stability is good depends on whether you're living in a stable hell hole, or a stable utopia (or at least what ever sorry excuse we have for a utopia).

          Chances are that if you actually need to talk about the right to overthrow your own government, and are seriously thinking its worth doing, the legality of possessing arms should be a non-issue; it'll get done anyway.

          Again though, its completely impractical to have any body in the state capable of challenging the military now that war has industrialized.
          Only places you see that sort of thing happening, are ironically enough tyrannies that don't trust the military enough, and set up a politically acceptable substitute eventually designed to replace it (like the SS in Nazi Germany, or Iran's Revolutionary Guard). This of course, actively hinders their ability to fight wars, internal or external--the right hand is in competition with the left instead of cooperating
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: There's no monopoly on violence in the US. Granted, people usually point to gun violence in the US when they argue for gun control. But as for needing a /monopoly/ for the State to exist, citizen gun owners have the same guns as the police, and substantially more. Having the arms to revolt doesn't make them instantly want to, anymore than seeing a gun on the table would trip someone up and make them crazy.

        Now whether the population has the arms or cohesion to take on the State... people might laugh at the thought. Perhaps if the battle were to take place in a colesseum, AR-15's against airstrikes and gattling guns, then its pretty clear the State has the military advantage. But I can't imagine war in the US being that way. Nor could I imagine, even in the event of an Adolph Hitler killing Congress and taking the White House, that the US military apparatus would senselessly oppress its own people. If anything it might break off to resemble a force more independent like the Egyptian army, or merge with American insurgents at home. Enemy soldiers on the ground in the US would likely be foreign or private militaries. Perhaps airstrikes and chemical weapons could kill off the whole population with ease, but could the people be subjugated like the Austrians were by Hitler? Thomas Jefferson saw arming the population to be necessary for the people to defend their rights. Even today, the US government couldn't disarm the people democraticly or by force, without ensueing chaos. Likewise, a standing army was believed necessary to fight insurrection. The government certainly isn't powerless against revolt, and the people certainly aren't powerless against their government.
        • Sep 10 2013: While having some existing militias can have its uses during wartime, especially if you're invaded, it comes with all sorts of peace time problems. Just look at countries like Lebanon, where a militia is stronger then the military, and runs half the country despite not being elected.

          As militias typically preform poorly unless geared up and trained to military standard before being put into action, they've either an ineffective force during war and no trouble during peace, or a useful asset in war, and a liability in peace.

          Either way, it sounds like investing the militia funding and recruits into professional military is a better idea. The military can be upheld to higher standards of conduct and discipline and their political neutrality enforced, which makes it less of a peacetime liability if handled correctly. Militias are less professional by nature, so such control is hard to come by.

          It would seem that the modern US has more or less realized this, seeing as militias are largely a thing of the past. Which again begs the question of why everyone needs such easy access to guns. It might be handy if someone ever invades the US, but otherwise...
          I understand why it was deemed necessary back when the country was first founded. Now though, it seems like a relic that doesn't solve nearly as many problems as it causes.
    • Sep 9 2013: Yes, of course, the 10th, the 16th, whatever. The 9th Amendment, on the other hand, is just a piece of garbage, right?
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: What do you mean?
        • Sep 9 2013: The 9th is always ignored. It is really the fundamental Amendment in the US Constitution, but it is ignored by everyone, including the Supreme Court (most of the time). Left-wing and right-wing both pretend it doesn't exist. As long as I can remember, I have heard people say monumentally stupid things like "Where is that right in the Constitution?", as if lack of enumeration of a specific right in the Constitution is to be taken as disparaging a given right's existence. "States Rights" cultists get all wet and hot over their precious "10th Amendment", but they never mention the 9th. The 1st, 2nd, 5th, etc. all have their defenders--but never the 9th. Why is that?

          Why are all our self-appointed saviors unwilling to take up the 9th Amendment? It's simple: Admitting that rights exist that are not enumerated in the Constitution means that these self-appointed saviors might have to admit the possibility that rights might exist to things that they, personally, happen to dislike.
      • thumb
        Sep 9 2013: I don't know.

        Since individual rights are crushed by a centralized government. I would think that creating a platform (a state) where an individual can be heard is equally important?

        What specific violations of the 9th do you see?
  • Sep 7 2013: The constitution has many things wrong from the past which was hopefully corrected by the amendments. We also have amendments to correct amendments. So i would argue the constitution including the bill of rights and all the other amendments (like the 18th amendment and the 21st amendment that reversed the 18th) are relevant but just needs tweaking.
    • Sep 9 2013: The US Constitution began as a scientific document and has been turned into a religious document.

      Scientific documents are always provisional. They are written with the understanding that they are not the last possible word and are always subject to revision and correction in light of later events. However, this also means that they are to be explicitly and openly corrected, not merely "reinterpreted" to suit current fashions.

      Religious documents are presented as the final word. It is a sin to openly rewrite them. Instead, they are surrounded by a body of ever-more-erudite and ever-less-comprehensible "interpretation" in order to "explain" their "intended meaning" and "keep them relevant".

      Imagine if we were still saddled with the theory of disease popular around 1800, but heavily "interpreted" to patch over all the holes in that paradigm--with attendant arguments over the "original meaning". Stupid? Yes, very stupid, but that is how the US Constitution is currently treated. The scientific approach is to revise and explicitly update our theory of disease. This is why the Constitution has provisions for amendment. We were meant to revise and update as needed, not to "interpret" it in a million different ways.
      • Sep 9 2013: could you define what you mean by scientific document and give an example. The example you gave was a little general. Medicine has always been driven by doctrine, for example the medical profession at that time wanted to hang Pasteur, literally. So science has never been as orderly as you seem to imply.

        Given the definition you have presented, then the magna carta and any other document that creates a government, is that what you mean?
        • Sep 9 2013: Was Pasteur actually hanged? Was he silenced and were his theories eliminated from discussion? Is Pasteur reviled today as a "heretic" and the previous theory of disease still held up as an "ideal" we are to all emulate?

          A "scientific document" adheres to scientific principles, specifically, it is not presented as some sort of "eternal truth" but as a model that is the best provisional fit to current data. If you want examples, all you need to do is find a biology texbook from 1900 and compare it to one of today written for the same level. Yes, similarities, but there are also differences. This is how science works.

          A religious document, on the other hand, is written to be "eternal" and "immutable". Not any other document that creates a government is automatically scientific. It is only scientific if it acknowledges its own innate fallibility by means of providing for its own amendment.

          Even then, it is only in practice scientific to the extent it is not enshrined as a matter of dogma. The US Constitution is now treated like a religious document. Amending it is seen as a form of sacrilege, so people, instead, try to "interpret" it without amending it.
  • Sep 6 2013: I'll start with the second amendment, because its simpler.
    Originally, it was designed to allow the nation to call upon militias in time of war, with the citizenry providing most of its own equipment. As most weapons of they day were small arms and the occasional cannon and warhorse, even a shoddy militia could be an effective force on the battlefield, especially in rough terrain where cavalry and artillery were less effective.

    With the advent of industrialized warfare in the first world war, the militia became obsolete. Tanks, aircraft, howitzers, and the much larger number of more disciplined men required to wage this new type of war saw to that.

    So in that sense, yes, I'd say the second amendment does need re-writing, seeing as its no longer fulfilling its intended function, but still comes with the side effect of having armed civilians all over the place.
    Most countries do just fine without the civilians all being armed to the teeth. In fact, I'd say its a detriment; it hurts the monopoly on violence so crucial for any government to function.

    The first amendment is a much more complex subject that I'm simply not versed in well enough to properly discuss.
    If your only issue with it is campaign funding however, I'd say that this particular little issue can probably be solved without rewriting the whole amendment.
    A small update ought to do--if you can ever convince the politicians to change a system which brought them to power, and can very well keep them there. Most of them aren't brave enough for such an act.
  • Sep 6 2013: the intent of the bill of rights is what is needed to be understood, and the specific types of changes which have ocurred in our society since then. with the second amendment right to bear arms it was as bryan maloney mentioned below originally intended to address our right to defend ourselves as militia, against foreign or even domestic government abuse. society has definitely changed as has technology and we are faced with a situation where some people have a great deal less maturity, self control, or even sanity and weapons are much more potentially deadly. the question would be not only how to provide safety from abuse of that right without losing the advantages of its original intent, but what has caused those changes in out psyche to produce some people who are more dangerous to themselves and others? after all, even without access to weapons dangerous and insane people can still cause great harm. we need to look at actual causes to be able to provide actual solutions.
    as for the first amendment right to free speech, it was intended for individuals and it is an important right for a democratic republic. corporate personage is a bizarre concept in itself and the post industrial power of corporations is something the founders of our country could never have envisioned. there lies the root of our problem in modern america. the problem with changing the bill of rights is invariably who changes it and why.
  • thumb
    Sep 6 2013: yes it is. citizens should be able to speak freely as long as they do that to the benefit of the nation. also they should be bear arms in accordance with the guidelines and permits provided by the authorities. after all, isn't the government working for the people? why would anyone want the right to oppose the government? opposing the government or the state is equivalent of opposing the people of the country, which should be a crime at most tolerated, but certainly not approved.
    • Sep 6 2013: The government is SUPPOSED TO work for the people. That does not mean it always does work for the people in every instance. Only a hardcore, fanatical fascist would make statements like you make. One must never presume that government automatically works for the people. Of course, a fascist would say that protesting against ones own government's warlike actions would be "equivalent of opposing the people of the country, which should be a crime". Fortunately, at least my own country is not (yet) a fascist state, and it is not a crime to oppose the government.
      • thumb
        Sep 6 2013: "Fortunately, at least my own country is not (yet) a fascist state"

        let us come back to that topic in ten years.
        • Sep 6 2013: Your point being? At least I'm not and never shall be a lunatic fanatic fascist, myself, who would say such vile, evil, Satanic things like "Opposing the government or the state is equivalent of opposing the people of the country, which should be a crime". You may eagerly wallow in the filth of fascism, but I refuse to.
      • thumb
        Sep 8 2013: in fact my purpose was to present the anti-freedom arguments in a more honest, direct way, in hope for a flood of angry remarks and possibly some people realizing what they are advocating. none of these happened. failed attempt.
    • thumb
      Sep 7 2013: Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
      • Sep 8 2013: A democratic republic constitutionally prohibits citizens eating each other, even if the majority is hungry.
    • thumb
      Sep 8 2013: I'm not sure what country you live in, or how people see and relate to their government there. But I can say that few, if any, Americans see the government as being the equivilent of the people. Back in the years immediately following the American revolution, one of the biggest debates was whether the Federal government should even be allowed to have a standing army. Distrust of the ruling party is a pillar of American thinking. Democracy was commonly considered to be a dangerous idea as well at the time, as it was thought to surely result in mob rule. The founders opted for a constitutional republic with elected representatives instead.

      So while the government in the US may be idealisticly by the people and for the people, it is surely not the people. "opposing the government or the state is equivalent of opposing the people of the country" is simply a fallacious statement.
      • thumb
        Sep 8 2013: it was back in the day. today, the debate is about whether people should be allowed to carry handguns. obama slogans ooze "we" and "together". healthcare becoming a "right". and a serious debate can be started about how to "tweak" the freedom of speech to serve the society "better".

        i claim that you do live in a dreamworld, a past america that does not exist today, and certainly won't exist tomorrow. you live, just like bryan said, a rising fascism, pretty much alike the 30's germany. and just they didn't notice, you don't notice either.

        and this is a problem. it is a problem, because the western world is already lost, and america is the last standing bastion of the european idea of freedom. europe has fallen in the second world war, and have not recovered since. and now that last bastion is about to fall.

        and then i don't know what's coming.
        • thumb
          Sep 8 2013: I don't deny that the US is the next Nazi Germany. The Bill of Rights is codified only as amendments to the US Constitution. On its own it's simply a set of ideals, penned down by a society descended from New World refugees. The US founders didn't fail to see the future that threatened their country, but set forth a code of ideals to prepare for it.

          "... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.

          If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.

          The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

          --Thomas Jefferson
        • thumb
          Sep 8 2013: Strong words Krisztian, and sadly, much to the point. I do not agree, however, with the statement that the western world is already lost. Europe despite it's problems (resulting in a growing insignificance) is still in the forefront of progress. Whatever the progress might be, of course. I have some serious doubts whether Asian countries (be it China, India or Japan) could ever go their own way once again. They - for all I know - commited an even more grave error by mindlessly following the western world and accepting its mechanization. A quick comparison of the Japan of yore and that of today (not to mention China, and, God forbid, India!) must lead to the conclusion that the former cultures (before, say, mechanization) were much more superior, even though they lacked the economic power. So, the western world is not lost, but its undergoing a very dynamic process of change. Where it will guide us, we can only guess, but the direction it will take will, for sure, be decisive for the whole world.
  • thumb
    Sep 6 2013: Its not just the Bill of Rights that needs updating. I believe representatives should be replaced with the people's direct voting. How do we implement these changes. Don't vote for any Democrats or Republicans. Select someone from another party or an independent. They won't win but if the numbers keep improving they will force changes.
  • Sep 6 2013: I hope not Anything that is legal always involves a evaluation by the Judiciary in terms of many factors and it is not unchanging.
    • thumb
      Sep 6 2013: Can you phrase your comment to raise the probabiliity of an easily distracted -- hey look a common housefly!-- old man getting your point? All aid is appreciated. :-D
  • Sep 6 2013: All rights arise from the right to life. If you don't have the right to live you've pretty much automatically lost everything else. So, it can be argued that the purpose of the Bill of Rights is to insure the lives of the people.

    It has been commented here that the Bill of Rights is a "living document" and I agree with that. However, it is a document that has a clearly spelled out method of modification detailed in the law document that it is attached to. If the document is to be changed and we want to be able to proclaim ourselves to be law abiding citizens then the document must be changed by that method and no other.

    Since its purpose is to protect our lives, I suggest we do so carefully if at all.
  • thumb
    Sep 6 2013: It is the natural state of any healthy democracy that the government is divided and this most of the time and on most subjects and it is its job to get things changed in the behalf of the majority of the people.

    Well, at least in theory and as long as the patience of 'the majority' lasts ... :o)

    Besides this, social evolution is nothing but change, so there shouldn't be any static 'Bill of Rights' as if they are set in stone. My wish for my and any country was, that any bill and law comes with a 'best-before date' automatically, so that from time to time they have to be revised anew and adjusted if necessary. This way there was no need to 'unite enough' political forces to do so, as they would form accordingly.
  • Sep 5 2013: As I'm sure you know, the purpose of the second amendment is to insure the means by which the citizenry can defend themselves against an oppressive government. The right to personal self defense is a secondary consideration. Given that, the weapons that governments possess have grown immensely in power since 1789. Far more so than anything that most private individuals are capable of procuring. Would you have people defend themselves from governments that own tanks and jet aircraft with muskets? The balance of power is already too far out of parity.

    In a free society people must be able to speak their minds. That means that freedom of speech must be as unlimited as possible. But, as with all rights, the right to free speech doesn't mean that you have the prerogative to use your speech to imperil the rights of others. That is why there are laws against things like libel and fraud. I think that a clear case can be made on that basis for placing limits on campaign finance.
  • thumb
    Sep 5 2013: If I remember correctly what I learned in high school, the Bill of Rights was intended as an articulation of basic principles that would be interpreted by the courts. Such interpretation makes the Bill of Rights a living document .

    Such interpretation is particularly important when different laws and principles could be construed to conflict with each other. Most of us understand that not all speech is protected, even though the exact boundaries are not articulated plainly in the Bill of Rights. There are laws against libel and slander, For example, that apply differentially depending on whether the target is a public figure. As another example, firms in the same industry are not permitted to set prices together. Such speech is not protected.

    Elaborations of the laws become part of the common law, or case law and are an important vehicle for fine-tuning the laws to apply to situations not specifically anticipated by the writers of the Constitution.

    I hope George Lockwood, a practicing attorney, will offer better and more authoritative explanation of how this works than I can.
    • Sep 6 2013: The bill of rights was intended as a bone to throw to the anti-Federalists. There was no "articulation of basic principles". The idea of "interpreted by the courts" was something that did not exist in US Constitutional theory until 1803 (Marbury vs. Madison), and even then it was only used in terms of "interpreting" legislation in light of the Constitution. Likewise, the bill of rights as such was little cited by the Supreme Court until the 20th century.

      It should be noted that the bill of rights, in the context of the Constitution, is not a document at all. Not all of it was even ratified. Instead, there are 10 amendments to the Constitution, but each one can and has been taken separately as needed. The Constitution is a "living document", in that it is subject to amendation, of course.