Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Collective Rights versus Individual Rights

A pair of patriots recently sent me an email about a volatile conversation going on in a forum about collective rights versus individual rights.  The attacker in the forum essentially said that collective rights trump individual rights, and the courts will interpret the Constitution in that manner every time.

Here is my response:


Collective Rights have a place, but the concept is one that is easily abused.  For example, in the Heller v. Washington DC case the Supreme Court determined that your right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, rather than a collective right.  In the McDonald v. Chicago case over the handgun ban in that city, the Supreme Court erroneously applied the Second Amendment to the States (and why it is supposed to only apply to the federal government is another long discussion for another time), telling Chicago it had no right to ban handguns. By applying the 2nd Amendment to the States, the federal government set itself up nicely for taking away your gun rights, for all they have to do now is redefine your right to keep and bear arms to that of a collective right.

In that instance, the idea of collective rights is a dangerous one.

However, as mentioned in the below email you sent me, screaming "bomb" in a theater is hardly a right because it does infringe on the collective rights of those in the theater. With freedom comes responsibility, and we are supposed to be using common sense when it comes to our rights.

As for the courts, and their ability to rule laws as constitutional or unconstitutional, the debate actually comes from a different direction.  Think about it this way.  The Constitution was written to give the federal government a few express powers. The idea was to limit the federal government as much as possible, to restrain it to only those authorities necessary for the protection, preservation, and promotion of the union.  To decide if something is constitutional is to decide whether or not the federal government has the authority to do whatever the law in front of the courts allows. Remember, the Supreme Court is a part of the federal government. So, for the courts to act upon their power of judicial review, which by the way they granted to themselves through the opinion of John Marshall in the Marbury v. Madison case in 1803, it is literally a situation where the federal government is deciding for itself what its own authorities are.

As for the Constitution guaranteeing individual rights and collective rights, let us not forget that the Constitution guarantees us none of those rights. Those rights are not given to us by government, nor can the government guarantee us those rights.  All of our rights are given to us by the Creator, and it is up to us to protect them. The Bill of Rights was not written to guarantee rights, but to tell the federal government to keep its hands off those rights.  Also, individual versus collective rights are not specifically mentioned.  That is an "interpretation," and I just told you what I think about the courts "interpreting" the Constitution.

I am assuming this collective rights versus individual rights discussion was prompted by the Obamacare case before the United States Supreme Court.  Rights has nothing to do with that case, or that authoritarian health care law. The liberal left would like to tell you it is all about rights, such as the right to health care.  But do we really have a right to a service? Regardless, the case before the courts should be very simple. There is no place in the Constitution that grants to the federal government the authority to have anything to do with health care, or giving them the authority to mandate that anybody buys anything. Therefore, the Health Care Law is unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court has no authority to force the States to implement the law if the Supreme Court decides to find it Constitutional, nor the authority to strike down the law if they find it unconstitutional. The Congress alone has the power to repeal it, should they decide to. The States, being the final arbiters of the Constitution, have the authority to nullify the law by ignoring it and refusing to implement it.  Sadly, I don't think the State legislatures and governors fully realize they have that kind of power.

I am hoping I answered this one appropriately. Feel free to direct any further questions to me on this matter.


Douglas V. Gibbs
Constitution Radio

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