Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: The need for the 2nd amendment

Author:Eric Kidd
Posted:5/7/1999; 9:12:25 AM
Topic:scriptingNews outline for 5/4/99
Msg #:5789 (In response to 5779)
Prev/Next:5788 / 5790

But the point is that the country can do whatever the majority of the citizens want. That's the point of a democracy, isn't it?

No, not in the United States. The majority of Americans want to censor the Internet, ban certain religions, outlaw particular political opinions, and allow the govenment to search private dwellings without a warrant. Or at least you get a majority of Americans to want any of these things after an appropriate news story.

If you read the American Declaration of Independence, you'll see the phrase "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights":

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

According to the Declaration of Independence, "rights" are not granted to people by the government, or by other people. Instead, certain basic rights are "unalienable"--they cannot be taken away. To protect these rights, governments are created by the people. But if a government abuses many of those rights for a long period of time, it can be overthrown and replaced by a new government.

The Declaration of Independence is the philosophy of the United States government, and the Constitution is the actual implementation. In practice, the Constitution has been very successful. We can change the Constitution, but it is very hard to do--it requires large supermajority votes in Congress and consent by most of the individual states. Also, the Constitution has worked for over two hundred years, so there's a strong bias against changing it (except among those congressional Repulications who think that American should officially be a "Christian" nation).

My ancestors fought in the American Revolution. I'm rather fond of our current government: it has problems, but things could be so much worse. But I do not for one second believe that if 51% of the people vote for something, that thing is right.

Democracy isn't perfect, but it's the best we got.

Nope. Pure democracy is an unstable and dangerous form of government, with a horrifying moral assumption at its center--a majority is always right. The United States, like most free countries, is a constitutional republic with elected representatives and a carefully-designed balance of power.

We're trying to preserve those "unalienable rights". Certain government actions are wrong, even if a majority votes for them.

There are responses to this message:

This page was archived on 6/13/2001; 4:49:52 PM.

© Copyright 1998-2001 UserLand Software, Inc.