Wednesday, June 23, 2010
About Constitutional Rights - are they absolute?
The limit on any constitutional right, such as the right to free speech, the right to own a gun, the right against self-incrimination, etc., etc., etc., is that the exercise of that right does not do harm to another person. We all know that the cry of "fire" in a crowded theater is not an absolute right. The right to own and use guns must be limited to restrain me from shooting and injuring my neighbor. It should also be limited such that I can't give or sell a gun to a person who is mentally unstable or otherwise and is highly likely to use it to commit a crime. My guns must be protected to prevent theft by criminals.
Many of these limitations that seem obvious today were not apparent to the Americans of 1787. Large cities in those days had populations of thousands, not millions. There was plenty of open space. People didn't live close together. If I wanted to practice target shooting I didn't have to worry that the noise would bother my neighbor who lived on another farm a quarter mile away. If I wanted to build a fire and burn wood or bituminous coal I didn't have to be concerned that the noxious smoke from the fire would affect the health of my neighbors. Again there was distance and infinite dilution of the fumes.
Today we are so crowded together that we are told we must use non-polluting fuel in our automobiles; power plants must scrub all the acid compounds from the smoke of the burning coal that supplies the energy to the generators; we are faced with having to create almost overnight a revolution in our energy production to limit the effects that human activity has on global temperatures.
It's late. I'll add to this later. Good Night.