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Dale Farnan

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Is the United States Bill of Rights out of date?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Is the United States Bill of Rights out of date?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?


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    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.
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      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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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
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        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?
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        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.
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        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?

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