Is it Time to Rethink the Bill of Rights?


I’ve been thinking heavily about politics and government lately. My topics of interest have ranged all over the map from campaign financing to Real ID to lobbying. However, the issue of individual rights has me a little more puzzled than most, namely because it seems that a number of people don’t talk much about them now that we’re in the midst of the war on terror. I find this troubling, because in a time where people want more security, they’re willing to trade rights away in order to get it. Not that that in itself is necessarily a bad thing, but the lack of discussion about it makes me concerned when new Presidential Directives come out, or the Patriot Act gets used indiscriminately, or when Presidents run wiretaps unauthorized by any court.

However, the lack of debate isn’t what hit me hardest a few days ago, but rather it was the thought that maybe we should start to rethink how free we should be in America. I’ll preface this right off by saying I’m personally in favor of more liberty with greater risk, but I thought I would share with you my thinking on the subject, because perhaps it’s a discussion that the US should be having.

As technology develops and becomes increasingly prominent, an interesting thing happens: the power of the individual rises.

This isn’t a new concept. A man is much more powerful with a spear than without, much more powerful with a gun than with a spear, and much more powerful with a fueled up plane than with a gun. It’s a natural progression that as technology moves forward that the capabilities of any one person will increase over time.

As this occurs, the threshold for previously coveted power falls. It doesn’t require months of training or intense skill to become a lethal threat to people now, just a few days wait for some guns. In the context of terrorism, we’ve been taught to fear this growing power. If one listens to the US media, it might sound like terrorists are on the verge of acquiring or using a nuclear weapon practically every month.

So, given the present day situation for America, have the freedoms granted to us by the US Constitution become antiquated? Has freedom simply become too risky in a time of such horrible potential violence? We need some form of power to combat this potential threat, and one potential answer could lie in government, relinquishing to them some of the powers our forefathers claimed for themselves so long ago. After all, that was a different world. In a time of tea parties and reverent rides, there were no such things as suitcase nukes.

I have a strong feeling about, but not a firm stance on, this issue. So for now I’d like to place my hope in an alternative. Instead of giving power to the government, which could very easily become corrupted, I’d argue the people simply need to embrace our own individual powers. After all, it was citizens on the plane who stopped the shoe bomber, not security. I think the people have a greater power than most realize today, and I would like to see them embrace that strength instead of so quickly shirking responsibility and liberty to the government.

Perhaps the times have changed. Perhaps not. Either way, I just hope people start talking about it more openly.

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2 Responses to “Is it Time to Rethink the Bill of Rights?”

  1. 1 JRush

    Very thoughtful.

    I am of the mindset that times change, but human nature doesn’t. And I believe that our founding fathers had a better understanding of human nature and how it interacts with government in a Judeo-Christian context than anyone today. Not that everything was perfect when the country got started, but we got closer to the right path than anyone had before…

    So, technology changes, the clock ticks–but certain things always remain the same: government tends to increase in power at the expense of the individual, the self-evident truths of the Declaration are still self-evident, and virtue is the foundation of freedom (how can a corrupt population remain free?)…

    I think that we deny these unchanging truths to our detriment.

    The expirement in freedom was purchased at great cost and freedom always involves risk. I’m not ready to throw away what was purchased or trade away freedom. In the past Americans were willing to risk and fight for freedom.

    Today, we just want “somebody in Washington” to make us feel better–no matter what.


  2. 2 kbp

    I accessed this blog from a link in your comment on a Chronicle article. (sorry if I criticized your comment too heavily!)

    I am strong on individual rights myself.

    After reading your comment posted about the presser the plaintiffs attorneys had in the lacrosse case civil complaints, I found it surprising you write that you believe in individual rights.

    I’d suggest you go to dukelawsuit dot com and read up on the topic. I suspect your opinion will change from that expressed in your comment after reading all available there.


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