Most Americans are probably not particularly familiar with the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, but it’s just a little bit important.
Amendment IV- 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.
In plain language, this Amendment states that the government cannot search you or your property without a valid warrant, which must specifically identify what is to be searched and/or seized. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Sadly, this particular enumerated right has been getting whittled away for decades.
Here’s a new way the government can get around the requirement for a warrant. Let us say you happen to be minding your own business at a grocery store. When you enter the store, you will likely see a bunch of permits on the wall- either at the entry or behind the customer service counter. All of a sudden, a SWAT team bursts into the store and rounds everybody up. Everyone is searched and checked for any warrants or unpaid parking tickets, and one or two people will likely be arrested and hauled away in handcuffs. Let us say you are one of those people- either because you have a warrant or perhaps you got a little “uppity” with the cops (police routinely assume that anyone who stands on their rights is hiding something). Where did the police get a warrant for this raid? It turns out that they don’t need one, if they are “assisting” the government agency which issued the permits for the grocery store. Several police agencies have begun accompanying liquor-enforcement agents and similar government employees for the purpose of rousting everyone at a business they would like to search but have been unable to get a warrant.
Some courts- including at least one Federal Circuit Court- have ruled that this is perfectly acceptable. Nothing to see here, citizen. Move along- after you show me your papers. Anyone who works for or patronizes an establishment which receives a license or permit from the government can be searched and possibly arrested without benefit of probable cause, so long as the police can claim they were enforcing the license or permit requirements.
Say goodbye to your freedoms, citizen. This is for your own good. Mama- in the form of your local, state, and federal government- is going to do what’s best for you, whether you like it or not. The government is going to bend, stretch, and break the limits against such governmental over-reach found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by any means necessary to enforce the increasingly byzantine web of laws which surround us.
In a complex society (ours certainly qualifies), laws are necessary to avoid a complete breakdown of that society. Most laws were originally intended to protect the weak from those who would prey upon them. Sadly, such good intentions rarely last. Once a segment of society learns how to use the laws to their advantage, they begin crafting increasingly complicated laws covering almost every aspect of daily life for the purpose of gaining control over society as a whole. That old saw about absolute power corrupting absolutely is true. Any government with the power to give you what you want has the power to take it from you.
Our Constitution was designed to provide limits on the power of government. “Congress shall make no law” is one of the common phrases in the Bill of Rights. People in government do not like these restrictions. No matter their political affiliation, these members of the self-identified political ruling class want to make decision on your behalf whether you like it or not. These political leaders tend to get very snippy when any of the rabble they try to rule start to demand accountability for those rulers and their actions.
Worse, the courts have been allowing our ruling classes to get away with violating the rules. Ever been stopped at a DUI checkpoint? Perfectly legal, despite the 4th Amendment’s requirement for a warrant for such searches. Get frisked by a cop on the street? According to the Supreme Court, that’s legal too. Buy a ticket on an airline? You just volunteered to give up your protection against unreasonable search.
Little by little, we, the People, have allowed our political ruling class to steal away our rights. Far too many people even applaud as our precious liberties are taken away.
So, how do we, the People, reverse this downward spiral into a police state? The first method is to pay attention. We return to Ed Howdershelt’ s Four Boxes. “There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please us in that order”.
Pay attention to what your elected officials are doing, and pay even closer attention to what the people appointed by those elected officials are doing. If you find something you do not like (if you have truly been paying attention, this is almost a given), speak up. Go to your local government meetings and make your displeasure known. If that doesn’t fix the problem, vote the bastards out of office at the first opportunity. Vote against increases in taxes to pay for stripping liberties from citizens. If people are still losing their innate freedoms, take the bastards to court. If someone is unjustly accused, stand up for them in court. If you are called upon for jury duty, you have the right and the duty to vote your conscience. If you feel the law is not being applied properly, use your vote in the jury to express your displeasure.
Once the courts have failed to protect our freedoms, we, the People will have no choice but to open that Fourth Box. Politicians, bureaucrats, police, judges, and all other government agents take note: We, the People, do not want to open that Fourth Box … but it’s still an option. Do not make us resort to it. If you leave us no other means of protect our liberties, we will. I’m still enough of an optimist to think that would be a Bad Thing, so please- stop convincing me that I’m wrong.
Current status: Grim
Current music: Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil