When it comes to individual rights, some, to paraphrase Orwell, are ‘more equal than others.’ In private life and free discourse, it should not alarm us all that much that a political writer prioritizes free speech, a churchgoer prioritizes religious liberty, a defense attorney prioritizes due process, and a gun owner prioritizes the right to keep and bear arms. With finite hours in the day, with finite time and energy, and with much else to do in our lives, we are not unreasonable in putting more of our time and effort into the rights that we consider most relevant to our individual lives and values.

In a free society, we get to do that without violating any first principles, moral tenets, or duties and obligations. Such is our right.

Politicians, on the other hand, forego that right when they win their elections. Their oaths of office commit them to defending and upholding the Constitution, in which is embedded both a set of explicit protections for individual rights and an implicit requirement to prioritize the rights and liberties of all the citizens they represent. All the rights, not just the ones they favor.

And, to do so even when some of those citizens demand that certain rights be abridged.

This obligation exists both for those citizens’ sakes, and for the sakes of the other citizens. For it is typical of those demands and demanders that the rights to be abridged are of lower priority to them and higher priority to others.

Two stories from yesterday’s news illustrate the point.

Nancy Pelosi is reportedly seeking to strip free speech protections from on line platforms that are written into the current draft of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), ahead of a House vote on the pact, protections that mostly mirror existing US law. As Reason reports, that existing law is, in essence, “the internet’s First Amendment.” There is much buzz nowadays about “doing something” about fake news, Russian interference in our elections via social media, hate speech, and, if we are to be honest, on-line content that vexes and challenges the political establishment and incumbent lawmakers. But, free speech is only free if we don’t seek to censor stuff we don’t like, and this push to force social media platforms to censor content should alarm anyone who values liberty. De-protecting it is a self-serving move by Pelosi, whose party seems quite interested in imposing its will on Internet platforms and content providers.

Recently declared Presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg released, to absolutely no one’s surprise, a gun control plan that would, among other things, ban “assault weapons,” raise the minimum age to buy a gun, impose a 48 hour waiting period, impose background checks on private sales, create a national red-flag law, and institute national permitting (and, we can assume based on the practical elements of all this, create a national gun registry).

While Bloomberg will face an uphill battle on his plan, it’s a safe bet that, if he manages to get nominated and then elected, the circumstances will be such that he’ll manage to get some of what he wants. Whether part or all of his plan clears Constitutional muster (and not just the Second Amendment – there are serious Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment problems with red flag laws) would have to be adjudicated, because I see nothing in Bloomberg that suggests he gives a rat’s ass about gun owners’ rights. If all this does come about, it’ll be in no small part because a whole lot of Americans don’t put nearly enough value in other people’s rights.

Pelosi may or may not get her way on the USMCA modification. If she does, it’ll probably be “bipartisan,” in that both Democrats and Republicans will be signatories to the removal of that protection for free speech rights. In other words, because a whole lot of Congressmen don’t put nearly enough value in other people’s rights.

The Bill of Rights is a list of protections. It behooves us to remember two things: it is not a menu, that would permit the choosing of rights rights one likes and the eschewing of rights one doesn’t care for; and it protects rights that already exist (and are inalienable) rather than creating and conveying them.

Based on history alone, most politicians don’t like those protections for our rights, because they limit what the government can do, and politicians hate to be told “you can’t do that.” And, based on history alone, most politicians pick and choose the Bill of Rights Amendments they declare favor for and the times at which they do, ignoring and walking all over the rest, based on political winds and benefit.

It’s a broken record on this blog, but it cannot be stressed enough: the Constitution was written to protect us from government, not to give government power over us. It acknowledges that government is a necessity for a safe, free, functional and productive society, but that its role should be limited and restricted. It is, however, only a set of words, and without human desire that they be heeded, respected, honored and fulfilled, those words are just words. If we don’t demand that our representatives respect our rights – all our rights – we are complicit in their transgressions. If we shrug our shoulders when Nancy Pelosi seeks to strip out free speech protections, or if we are indifferent to Mike Bloomberg’s desire to curtail others’ gun and due process rights, we don’t just hurt others. We set the stage for the eventual erosion of the rights that are important to us.

It is beyond doubt that we care less about other people’s money than we do about our own. We mustn’t make that mistake when it comes to other people’s rights.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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