Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Rule of Law

My friend called me yesterday, very upset, and on the verge of committing violence. He had paid the taxes on his business property, but there was a shortfall, and without having received a notification of said shortfall, his property was about to be auctioned off. He had gone to pay the small shortfall (only a couple of hundred dollars), but there was a three-hour line out the door, and he feared he couldn't pay the taxes in time to avert the auction sale, which was to occur this coming Monday (this having been Friday afternoon).

I assured him that the information he had been given was wrong; that we live in a land of laws; and that the individual's property rights are protected by those laws. But he was not consoled, because a city employee had assured him that his property would be auctioned off come Monday. I made a few calls, and he checked with a city lawyer across the street at city hall, and sure enough, he had been misinformed, and it was only the debt which was up for auction, and he had six months after that to pay off the debt.

Common sense would normally tell you that the government can't just confiscate one's personal property without recourse, but he had been given bad information by several sources and he was on the verge of flipping out. This is how crazy violent acts occur. Whenever I see where someone went into a courthouse with a gun, or made some crazy decision to commit a violent stupid act, my first thought is usually: "What was done to them to provoke them?"

Usually, individuals are relatively just, and it is a relatively safe assumption to say that we ALL want to be treated fairly and with respect. Luckily for us, we live in a country of laws that are among the best in the world to protect the individual.

We can all sleep comfortably, knowing that this is not Venezuela, and we will not wake up to find that the government has taken over our business, or confiscated our property, so long as we pay our bills. At least for the present, this is true.

However, there are always forces at work trying to steal your rights, and we must be ever vigilant against such people. I cite for example the recent misuses of the law of Eminent Domain, used to steal valuable waterfront property from lifelong residents, so that rich corporations could build more valuable malls and hotels there. This misuse is a great danger that is currently being fought in many courtrooms. I cite this recent online definition of Eminent Domain, which would allow for a much broader interpretation than has previously been assumed:

"The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property."

Heaven help the poor land owner if that definition is freely applied by the courts! There are many other recent abuses of our laws which have been enacted by the courts, of which most people are oblivious. In particular, I am thinking of how trial lawyers have ravaged the coffers of so many large companies using falsified claims and crooked witnesses. The tobacco companies, the asbestos manufacturers, and many others have been targeted successfully, and have had their rights violated by the scoundrels who perpetrated the raids, and the courts which enabled them and were complicit through their rulings. People have in the large thought not much about these abuses of the law, because they were hoodwinked into believing bogus data.

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee," are words as true today as when John Donne first penned them.

Our laws as written, give us many rights, but those rights are also subject to an ever-changing interpretation. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes believed that the law evolves with the society it serves, but that in itself can represent a danger. Some standards must not be changed, for some truths do not change. Society may just as easily devolve as evolve, such as in Nazi Germany.

Therefore, I suggest that the law and the U.S. Constitution alone is not enough of a standard to protect present and future generations of Americans. We need an interlocking "Constitution of Morality" that will specify the spirit and intent of the law for the maximum protection of the individual.

This Constitution of Morality would help prevent abuse by radical activist courts, over-zealous defenders, and marauding prosecutors run amok. It would take many years and heated debates to frame such a standard, but I think it would be a worthwhile project and should be pursued. It would be like backing our constitution by a "gold standard". There is far too much leeway in existing laws, and our constitution is rife with opportunity for abuse.

History proves that our government can perpetrate abuses that we, today, would not think possible. We should act sooner, rather than later, to clarify and protect our constitution, so that we might avoid violent upheavals in the future, as enraged citizens rise up against future injustices.

Of course, we might have to bust the heads of a lot of trial lawyers and activist judges along the way, who would stand in the way of all that. Those foxes know that such an interlocking document would take away their ability to cheat, rob, and steal. But we shouldn't let that deter us. There are many excellent judges, who even now are speaking out against such abuses.

My guess is that some character will come along one day, and see this potential vehicle to fame, and pick it up and ride with it on a bold white charger. I just hope that individual's heart is pure and just, because to do it right, will take another George Washington, or another John Adams.

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