What Is Liberty?
Almost 150 years, and nothing has changed.
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The Final Frontier
the Freedom to Obey
by Sam Aurelius Milam III
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
the First Amendment, U.S. Constitution, Proposed September 25, 1789, Ratified December 15, 1791
The very first thing the U.S. Constitution needed after enactment was to be fixed. This necessity ought to have made people wonder if the document was worth keeping. However, instead of starting over or maybe just sticking with the Articles of Confederation, they tried to fix the flawed Constitution. That "fix" was the so-called Bill of Rights. For the most part, this band-aid only made things worse. In fact, it brings to mind that old adage about pouring good money after bad. Most of the first ten amendments have problems. Here's an analysis of the First Amendment, step one in the conversion of our rights into privileges.
First Amendment, First Flaw
The first flaw in the First Amendment ought to have been obvious. This flaw is that the amendment restricts only the law-making powers of the Congress. Other Congressional powers which might exist,1 powers of the other branches of the federal government, and powers of state and local governments are not restricted by the First Amendment.
This may not seem important. Yet, consider the current state of religious practice. When confronted by the word religion, most people think of churches and generally believe them to be free from government control. In fact, this is far from true. In spite of Christ's admonition that "No man can serve two masters",2 most churches are incorporated. This places them squarely under the authority of government. Rather than Divine Judgment, they're subject to applicable tax laws and audits. Incorporated or not, they must comply with building codes, zoning codes, fire regulations, sanitary codes, and other regulations. The government even regulates the maximum size of congregations that are permitted within a building. These laws and regulations all operate respecting establishments of religion and regulate in one way or another the free exercise thereof. They avoid violating the First Amendment because they are not laws made by the Congress, but regulations issued by executive agencies, or laws made by other bodies besides the Congress. This deficiency is a good example of the danger of inadequate scope in a bill of rights.
An Establishment of Religion
The Establishment of Religion provision of the First Amendment has also been limited in another sense. There is, as it happens, a more general meaning of religion. The construction of this provision should encompass that meaning. It therefore seems reasonable to presume that the provision ought to prevent the Congress from passing any law respecting any cause, principle, or system of beliefs to which any one holds with ardor and faith. Yet, many practices which satisfy this definition have been prohibited. Consider polygamy among Mormons and the ceremonial use of peyote by natives of this continent. The ardor and faith of so-called cults and survivalist groups clearly satisfy the definition.
Repression of religion today is due not entirely to deficiencies of the provision but also to a failure of the people to insist upon its legitimate scope.
Freedom of Speech and of the Press
In spite of the First Amendment, there are limitations of the freedoms of speech and of the press. A good example is with regard to sedition. Any movement tending toward certain unspecified "commotions", even though lacking any overt act, is punishable.3 Meetings, speeches, or publications which attempt to disturb the tranquillity of the state are punishable. Since the First Amendment should have protected the people from the state, and not the other way around, the very concept of sedition is repugnant to the proper meaning of this provision of the First Amendment. That the concept of sedition endures in spite of the amendment is due to the failure of the people to insist upon the inviolability of the amendment.
People usually get the kind of government they deserve.
There are problems with the language of the Freedom of Assembly provision of the First Amendment. A contract must be understood according to what it says, and not according to what somebody believes the writer meant to say. If the language of this provision is analyzed according to the punctuation as written, that language becomes:
Although the First Amendment makes no enforceable statement regarding a right to assemble, the generally accepted myth is that it does. Briefly addressing this myth as though it were fact, the First Amendment doesn't acknowledge a right to assemble, but only a right to peaceably assemble. This might seem at first like a reasonable restriction. However, consider a peaceable assembly to which the government objects. If this peaceable assembly is "disrupted", then it isn't a peaceable assembly anymore. After that, it has no protection. This restriction on assemblies is a gold-plated invitation to the government to deploy agents provocateurs.
Any meeting that attempts to disturb the tranquility of the state (sedition) lacks First Amendment protection. Any assembly which results in "antisocial" behavior of the group is deemed an unlawful assembly.
In fact, people ought to have the right to use any method whatsoever to reform or overthrow government. If they are limited to legal (that is, government approved) methods, then they are limited to methods that can be defined, regulated and controlled by the government that they are trying to reform or overthrow. Any such attempted restriction of the people is, in and of itself, a sufficient reason to overthrow the government.
The "right" of assembly will today allow nothing more than a few unobtrusive individuals carrying inoffensive signs and being careful not to block the sidewalk. Otherwise a permit is required. The requirement of permits confirms that this provision provides no protection whatsoever for a right to assemble. A right can be regulated by custom, but never by statute. By allowing only peaceable assemblies the provision grants a veto power over them. The result is to establish a privilege to assemble by permit only.
In Loco Parentis
The First Amendment doesn't protect rights. It converts them into privileges to be dispensed by government. The loss inherent in this process is only part of the larger loss that has been suffered by Americans. In this regard, Americans must decide what kind of relationship they wish to have with their government. If they choose a childlike reliance upon their government to satisfy all their needs, then they cannot hope to control that government. This is inherent in the parent/child relationship. They can also expect the government to demand obedience and enforce discipline. They can fear that it might become abusive. If, instead, they choose to be adults, then they must not expect the government to solve each problem and to determine each dispute. An adult must make his own decisions, solve his own problems, and correct his own mistakes. He is no longer bound to obey his parents. He has the burden of responsibility. With it he has the power to disobey. If Americans are to be adults, then they must exercise this power. If they can't, then the American Dream is truly at risk.
New Element Discovered
(Author Unknown Contributed by Nancy Milam)
The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by physicists at Turgid University. The element, tentatively named Administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have 1 neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice-neutrons, and 111 assistant vice-neutrons. This gives it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together in a nucleus by a force that involves the continuous exchange of particles called morons.
Since it has no electrons, Administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes into contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of Administratium caused one reaction to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally occur in less than a second.
Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately 3 years, at which time it does not actually decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which assistant neutrons, vice-neutrons, and assistant vice-neutrons exchange places. Some studies have shown that the atomic mass actually increases after each reorganization.
Research at other laboratories indicates that Administratium occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It tends to condense and concentrate at certain points such as government agencies, big business, schools, and universities.
Scientists point out that Administratium is known to be toxic at any level of concentration and can easily destroy any productive reactions where it is allowed to accumulate. Attempts are being made to determine how Administratium can be controlled to prevent irreversible damage, but results to date are not promising.
I've been wanting to write you ever since I got my Nov. Frontiersman to say how much I agree with your article "Inside Track." I wish you could have known my grandmother; she was always looking for "cui bono?" (who benefits? in case you've forgotten Latin). "Parasites" was good too. I'm saving them, and if you could see my place swamped (I think that's the right word) with papers. So I hope you consider it a compliment to join the crowd.
Shirley; Urbana, Illinois
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