Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Counting Heads, Whether or Not Brains Are Inside

You have probably heard about this thing called the Constitution. You know, the document written by a bunch of dead white guys in the late 1700's that lays out the structure and authorities of the government of the new country they'd just launched. Ever read it? You can check it out here.

One of the things that most amazes me nowadays is that there are a vast number of screwballs out there who shout loudly about protecting their rights under the Constitution, but who have no idea what it actually says. Most of these are on the far right, although a smaller number can be found on the just hear the right-wingnuts more because they're louder and better organized.

Here's an interesting current topic: the census. There are lots of people out there, particularly on the deeply conservative right, who object to the census as a dreadful infringement of their rights, designed only to give the Terrible Federal Government all the information it needs to enslave them and take away their guns. After all, the Constitution gives them the right to privacy, right?

Well, not really. There is no Constitutionally-protected right to privacy per se...the closest it comes is in the Bill of Rights, where the Fourth Amendment says that, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Perhaps it's splitting a legal hair, but this isn't quite the same as a "right to privacy."

Getting back to the census, do you suppose that those who refuse to cooperate with the census on the grounds that it's an invasion of their supposed "right to privacy" know that the Constitution actually mandates a census every ten years? Yep, it's right there in Article I, Section 2. Check it out.

So, let me see if I've got this teabag version of history right...

If the Constitution says I'm allowed to do something...own guns,'s absolutely sacred and inviolable, and the least suspicion that anyone might infringe on that right is a call to form militias and stockpile supplies against the coming armageddon.

On the other hand, if the Constitution imposes a responsibility on me...allowing myself to be counted in a census, or paying taxes (Article I, Section 8) for instance...that's a gross infringement of my rights.

Rights, yes. Responsibilities, no.

I understand it now.

Everybody hates The Government until he needs it...when Medicare eligibility kicks in, or when there's a major disaster that requires national-level assistance for recovery, let's say. At those times, everybody loves The Government...they just object to having to do anything to pay for it.

I don't like paying taxes, but I recognize that they provide the funds for government at all levels to function and provide the services we've come to expect. I don't object to paying taxes per se, although I do object - strongly - about how that money is spent, which isn't the same thing. For instance, I don't mind paying for an Army and for Social Security and Medicare...but I don't like my tax dollars being spent to pay for services for illegal immigrants, foreign aid for countries that turn around and spit on us, or bailouts for incompetent financial managers.

But I'm rambling.

This all started with a rant about clueless bozoheads who object to cooperating with the census because it infringes on what they believe are their "rights." The Constitution ensures you have rights, but it also imposes some responsibilities. The two go hand in hand.

Unless, of course, "The Constitution" is something you just invoke without reading.

Like most of the Far Right.

Have a good day. Demand your rights, but carry out your responsibilities. Both are vital parts of a democratic society.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Gilahi said...

Are these the same people that quote the Bible without knowing what it says?

SusieQ said...

The Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision was based on an "implied" right to privacy in the 14th Amendment.

Here is what I have heard. Some people object to the current census because it contains many invasive questions which they are required to answer. They see these as an encroachment on their privacy.

Anonymous said...

Regarding rights and repsonsibilites--you don't get one without the other, just another version of There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. I worked on Census 2000. What these chowderheads don't seem to grasp is that the Census cannot BY LAW share the information they gather with any other agency. They can't share it with the IRS or DHS. The information is used for oh, determining how many representatives you have to represent you in that big bad government (didn't Bachmann back down on this one when she realized that if the people in her district weren't counted that she might not have a district and a job?) how much money is allocated to the state to provide those awful services like road repair and construction just to name a few.

Bilbo said...

Gilahi - yep.

SusieQ - I don't know what constitutes "many" or "invasive" questions. The form has 10 questions, 5 of which apply to each person. None of these look to me to be any more invasive than the questions asked when we want a loan or a check-cashing card at the local supermarket. The census determines proportionality of representation in Congress, as well as provides some group statistical data on race and ethnicity. I don't think any reasonable person could see this as overly invasive.

Anonymous - are there more than the two of us singing in this choir?

Mike said...

A partial quote can get you a lot of trouble.

Anonymous said...

SuzieQ is partially on target; the right of privacy arose from Rove v. Wade and the Court's declaration of a "Penumbra" surrounding the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th amendments, and the equal applicability clauses of the 14th amendment. Anti-abortion groups find themselves arguing against a decision that could help them very much in enforcing a "privacy" right regarding the obviously necessary census, and more important, the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th amendments.
The unspoken reason for the distaste for answering census questions beyond, "How many people in your house?" is that those who don't want to give the information to the government often hold that position because they don't trust the government to keep the information the law requires private and secure--no sharing allowed. Considering that several of our reprehensibles during the Health Care debate publicly stated their disdain for rules of procedure, the chances that government distrust will grow to be a serious phenomenon are great (the steps after that are both logical and disastrous for society--just check out life in Zimbabwe). The Constitution works to protect us only as long as the authorities follow it. Otherwise, it's just a chunk of useless parchment.
Eminence Grise