21 October 2009

Collective Right Anathema to freedom?

I would argue that the entire concept of a “collective” right is an anathema to freedom. Some please tell me what ‘collective right’ they have, and how they can assert it.

Well, Those who insisted the Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights had a well founded fear of standing armies. They knew how often standing armies, established in the name of defending against external enemies, had instead used the power with which they had been entrusted to enslave the very peoples they had pledged to protect. Those men of wisdom also recognized how the power of tyrants almost always required control over a standing army capable of imposing the tyrant's will on an unwilling populace. The Continental Congress had no intention of allowing the liberty they sought for Americans to be easily usurped - and they were also determined not to create the means for a tyrant to seize the reins of power from the people.

A large part-time people's army reduces the likelihood of war as members derive the great bulk of their income from civilian employment thus are less than enthusiastic about interrupting their civilian lives and careers by marching off to an unnecessary war, while many citizens are far less likely to support a war of aggression if it is likely a family member will have to fight it, factors which help explain Swiss neutrality and the fact that it has not fought a war in almost 500 years (not counting a very brief civil war in 1847 that did away with the last vestiges of feudalism). Being a member of a military organization promotes discipline, comradeship and self-reliance, which fosters social cohesion and an egalitarian, democratic mindset thanks to the mixing of people from different social classes and cultural groups who would otherwise have little if any close contact with each other.

You would find that the founders also would be in complete disagreement:

"Standing armies [are] inconsistent with [a people's] freedom and subversive of their quiet." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Lord North's Proposition, 1775. Papers 1:231

"It astonishes me to find... [that so many] of our countrymen... should be contented to live under a system which leaves to their governors the power of taking from them the trial by jury in civil cases, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce, the habeas corpus laws, and of yoking them with a standing army. This is a degeneracy in the principles of liberty... which I [would not have expected for at least] four centuries." --Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1788. (*) FE 5:3

"The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force." --Thomas Jefferson to Chandler Price, 1807. ME 11:160

"The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:184

"When a government wishes to deprive its citizens of freedom, and reduce them to slavery, it generally makes use of a standing army." -- Luther Martin, Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention
Mr. Gerry — This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the government; if we could suppose that in all cases the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous, and prevent them from bearing arms. What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now it must be evident, that under this provision, together with their other powers, congress could take such measures ith respect to a militia, as make a standing army necessary. Whenever government mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishement of an effective militia to the eastward. The assembly of Massachusetts, seeing the rapid progress that administration were making, to divest them of their inherent privileges, endeavored to counteract them by the organization of the militia, but they were always defeated by the influence of the crown. The Congressional Register, 17 August 1789

"A distinction between the civil and military [is one] which it would be for the good of the whole to obliterate as soon as possible." --Thomas Jefferson: Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:90
It must be made a sacred maxim, that the militia obey the executive power, which represents the whole people in the execution of laws. To suppose arms in the hands of the citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self defense, or by partial orders of towns, counties, or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed, and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws. Adams, John, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America,1787-88, p. 474-5

The Bill of Rights secures to the people the use of arms in common defense; so that, if it be an alienable right, one use of arms is secured to the people against any law of the legislature. The other purposes for which they might have been used in a state of nature, being a natural right, and not surrendered by the constitution, the people still enjoy, and [may?] continue to do so till the legislature shall think fit to interdict. "Scribble Scrabble," Cumberland Gazette, January 26, 1787; "Scribble-Scrabble," ibid., December 8, 1786

Mr. Madison has introduced his long expected amendments. They are the fruit of much labor and research. He has hunted up all the grievances and complaints of newspapers, all the articles of conventions, and the small talk of their debates. It contains a bill of rights, the right of enjoying property, of changing the government at pleasure, freedom of the press, of conscience, of juries, exemption from general warrants, gradual increase of representatives, till the whole number, at the rate of one to every thirty thousand, shall amount to ____, and allowing two to every State, at least. This is the substance. There is too much of it. Oh! I had forgot, the right of the people to bear arms.

Risum teneatic amici? [Hold your laughter, friends.]

Upon the whole, it may do some good towards quieting men, who attend to sounds only, and may get the mover [Madison] some popularity, which he wishes.
Fischer Ames, letter to Thomas Dwight, June 11, 1789

And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 3:§ 1890

The legislature, therefore, have a right to prohibit the wearing or keeping weapons dangerous to the peace and safety of the citizens, and which are not usual in civilized warfare, or would not contribute to the common defense. The right to keep and bear arms for the common defence is a great political right. It respects the citizens on the one hand and the rulers on the other. And although this right must be inviolably preserved, yet, it does not follow that the legislature is prohibited altogether from passing laws regulating the manner in which these arms may be employed.

To hold that the legislature could pass no law upon this subject, by which to preserve the public peace, and protect our citizens from the terror, which a wanton and unusual exhibition of arms might produce, or their lives from being endangered by desperadoes with concealed arms, would be to pervert a great political right to the worst of purposes, and to make it a social evil, of infinitely a greater extent to society, than would result from abandoning the right itself. Aymette v. State, 21 Tenn. (2 Hump.) 154 (1840).

So, your right to be free from a large military establishment was of the highest importance!