September 15, 2008

"Should I Worry About Becoming a Slave Again?"

I know everyone's mad at Whoopi Goldberg for asking that question, but she was simply articulating a common fear that people have about strict constructionism, and it's a fear that right-wingers must address, particularly if we are going to assert that as a matter of law, it might be more appropriate if abortion were to be decided by the states, rather than by Federal overreach.

And it is a stickier issue than people like to admit.

What Whoopi is asking here:

is "how far do you want to turn back the hands of time?"

And whenever we talk about how we want the Constitution interpreted with the Founding Fathers' intentions factored in, we're going to get asked that question by the "living Constitution" crowd.

I think we should get asked that question by the "living Constitution" crowd.

Because the way I see is—as someone who has never set foot in a law school—the dirty little secret is that even strict constructionists wink at a certain kind of Federal "overreach," especially of the "Brown v. Board of Education" type. Because that same clique of crazy guys who wrote the original Constitution without spilling any of each other's blood managed to put together that "Declaration of Independence" thingie, which declared that "all men are created equal" [clearing the way for "all men and women are created equal," English being a Germanic language—and "man" being German for "one," the individual, gender aside: the "smallest minority"].

So strict constructionism has to do with intent, and we have a lot of supporting documentation on the Founding Fathers' intent—which was to create a new type of freedom for the individual, by limiting the power of the State. They had a vision, and it was a capitalist, individualistic vision.

The problem in comparing abortion "rights" with other types of rights is that in the particular case of abortion there are two individuals involved, and their rights/obligations have to be balanced against each other.

That is why abortion is problematic, and could well at some point be returned to the states to decide. It is also why gay marriage is inevitable, whether or not we go through a couple of decades of calling it "civil unions" or not. (Or, as I would prefer, call all legal unions "civil unions," and make them all legally equal. Then people could do the church part if they liked, and call 'em marriages if they liked. And no one would have to use the word "marriage" for anyone else's "civil union" if they didn't want to. And we could all stop arguing about that.)

Once one looks at the Constitution through the prism of the Declaration of Independence, it's easy to see that constructionism is not going to roll back civil rights (again—unless you see abortion as a civil right, which is all well and good, but you got there [and I am pro-choice] by rolling over the rights of the fetus).

This clip apparently upset a lot of people.* I thought it was fine; McCain came off very well, and in order to do that he didn't have to pretend not to be religious, or pretend that Constructionists didn't pose a danger to Roe v. Wade.

He just had to be himself, and he was funny. People always forget that McCain's funny, and it catches 'em off-guard.

* Including Allah, whose answer on abortion would be a Constitutional Amendment. Ouch. I'd much rather see that one determined by the states, if Roe v. Wade ever were ever to be overturned.

Posted by Attila Girl at September 15, 2008 11:22 AM | TrackBack


Posted by: Darrell at September 15, 2008 08:53 PM

You see, Attila, I do not personally have a problem against classical slavery. Or, slavery as practiced by the Hebrews. Suitably updated, maybe.

I do have an issue with race-based or class-based slavery. If Asians, Caucasians and Negroids can all sell themselves into slavery, then I don't see a problem.

Two caveats;

1. Such slavery must be debt or POW slavery. IOW, if the putative slave is a citizen/legal resident, his slavery must be voluntary. And registered, regardless.

2. Time limit/buy-out. There must be achievable, realistic conditions to release someone from slavery.

It needs to be seen what the definition of slavery is, to be sure. Declaring bankruptcy is a limited, legal form of slavery - amongst other things, you cannot possess or use a passport. So is income taxation.

Posted by: Gregory at September 15, 2008 10:28 PM

Gays can already marry, that is, they can already promise to be sexually exclusive with one other person. They can do that any time. It's not what they're asking for.

What they want is for the state to provide material benefits on account of the relationship, and to force employers to provide material benefits on account of the relationship. The libertarian in me says no to that. As far as I am concerned, if an employer recognized only straight marriages, only gay ones, or only Mormon ones, and set employee benefits accordingly, that would be his inalienable right and should be recognized as such.

The other legal benefits of marriage can be handed out to any domestic arrangement without anybody caring.

Posted by: John at September 16, 2008 03:35 AM

Then, John, I assume as a good libertarian that you oppose state-sponsored marriage for straight couples as well.

It's my understanding that some Federal benefits remain out of reach for gay couples who do not marry, no matter how many attorneys they hire to write contracts between them.

Gregory, I believe what you're discussing in "indentured servitude." Please note that indentured servants have traditionally been treated, on the whole, even worse than slaves.

We can sign away some of our rights under some conditions but we cannot consent, as Children of God, to be "owned" by another human being.

Posted by: Attila Girl at September 16, 2008 10:07 AM

Gregory, that form of "slavery" is called indentured servitude. Historically, it was a method by which one promised a certain length of service, typically 7 years, in exchange for passage to the New World.

Posted by: I R A Darth Aggie at September 16, 2008 10:56 AM

Yes, yes, yes, and serfdom is not slavery either.

A difference without a distinction, if you ask me. Indentured servitude, working until May/June for the Feds (luckily for me, my taxes are so low it's more like Jan 15th), serfdom, slavery - all pretty much hinges on your definition of the term.

Debt slavery, captive slavery, marriage slavery (yeah, you can look it up, there are some though not many points of similarity) - again, my point is that a man should be allowed to 'sell' himself with the clear understanding that he should also be allowed to 'buy' himself back. Or did you not know that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, paid a dear price to redeem us from the slavery of sin? Is it not true that he who is a slave is free because of Jesus Christ, and he who is free is a slave unto the Lord? And that we are no longer our own people, but that we are the Lord's?

Since this is true in both a physical (in that whatever we do, we do for the Lord) and a spiritual sense (in that He is our suzerain), then slavery per se is not the problem - it's the discrimination that comes along with it that's the problem. That, and the inheritance of the status.

Posted by: Gregory at September 16, 2008 05:09 PM

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