Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Bill of Rights - Articles IX and X

Note: Friday's post is going up early because I need to go to work early in the morning, and won't have time to write the post when I usually do. It'll confuse Mike, but the rest of you should be okay.

It's been a while, Dear Readers, since we last looked at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but now it's time to complete our brief foray into history with a discussion of the last two articles of the Bill of Rights - numbers nine and ten (or IX and X, to be numerically Roman about it).

The Ninth Amendment reads,

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

And the Tenth reads,

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Taken together, these two amendments say quite a bit. Unfortunately, they don't say quite enough.

The Founders wrote the Ninth Amendment because they realized they couldn't think of everything. They had, as we have seen, recent experience of living under a monarch with nearly limitless power, and wanted to make sure that - just because they'd forgotten to list a particular right in the Constitution - that fact couldn't be used by some future President (or legislature, or court) to take on more power just because the Constitution didn't say "no."

The Tenth Amendment grew out of similar concerns. The greatest problem faced by the Founders in drafting the Constitution was figuring out the correct balance between the relative powers of the central government and the constituent states. That argument was resolved by the Tenth Amendment in the states' favor - if the Constitution didn't specifically grant a power to the central government or specifically deny it to the states, it would go to the states.

Or to "the people," whatever that means.

According to the Supreme Court in its Citizens United decision (are you tired of me harping about that, yet?), "the people" includes corporations, unions, and similar groups ... not just Average Joes and Janes like you and I. Nowadays, "the people" are the "oil people," the "mining people," the "banking people," the "real estate people," and so on...

You might want to remember that the next time you're in a demonstration and shout some mindless slogan like "power to the people!"

But anyhow, the last two amendments of the Bill of Rights are, in my opinion, two of the most important. They don't guarantee specific rights like the First through the Eighth Amendments, but they reflect a farsightedness on the part of the Founders that we don't see in the weasely ass clowns that have taken their place today. The Founders knew they didn't have all the answers, so they built into the Constitution a mechanism to allow for the document to be amended as conditions changed in an unknowable future (Article V). And, knowing that tensions between the central government and the states would certainly arise, they wrote the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to underline their vision of a union in which the powers of the individual states would be protected. Somehow, I don't think we have anyone in Congress today who could write a document this good.

Unfortunately, what we have in Congress (and in the noisy fringes of the left and right) are a lot of people who talk up a storm about the Constitution and what they think it says, but don't really have much of a clue what it actually means.

In the coming weeks, we'll look some more at the body of the Constitution and at some of the other amendments. In an election year, I think that's a very worthwhile thing to do.

Have a good day. See you in this spot for Cartoon Saturday!

More thoughts then.



Melissa B. said...

And We the People keep having a difficult time interpreting the Constitution, correctamundo? Thanks for this!

Edwin Frownfelter said...

If "the people" are the ones who post on Yahoo News comment threads, we must at all costs keep power out of their hands.

Mike said...

I may get myself incorporated so I'm an important people.

And you can fix this misposted post. After you post -
Post options..
Scheduled at..
Publish post..

Edwin Frownfelter said...

Remember the old Tom Paxton song, "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler."

I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am going down to Washington DC
I will tell some power broker'What they did for Iacocca
Will be perfectly acceptable to me . . .

Story is that Iacocca heard the song on his car radio and was so mad he tried to pull all Chrysler advertising from the station that played it.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

The Founding Fathers seemed to be distrustful of the Federal government that they were establishing, and included these amendments to rein in possible expansions of power in the future that they could not foresee. The analogy that comes to mind right now is a thermostat, regulating the government's perogative so that it could go only so far and no more.

Maybe I should incorporate to have more clout.

Big Sky Heidi said...

When we consider that "the people" consider Bill O'Reilley and Jon Stewart as credible news sources or commentators, I wonder.