Sunday, March 08, 2015

How the Federal Government Has Restricted the Rights to Freedom of Speech and Assembly

According to this article in the Los Angeles Times, since the days of the Selma march, the federal government has effectively banned large-scale protests on federal land, and federal court rulings have permitted states and cities to forbid the use of public property for the purpose of exercising the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

I'm not sure what the implications of this are, but they don't seem good.

Granted, there could be very good reasons for the government to want to limit the exercise of the rights to free speech and assembly, but there's a real risk that the rights will be removed of any substance on account of these rules and rulings.

How wrong the Federalists who opposed the original Bill of Rights have proved to be. If memory serves, they argued that the Bill of Rights was unnecessary, because the Constitution does not permit the government to treat people in the ways explicitly forbidden by the Bill of Rights. Not only was the Constitution alone insufficient to protect the rights of the people, the government has effectively restricted and limited many of the explicitly enumerated rights, and often times has fought tooth and nail to restrict and limit such rights, until being constrained by the rulings of federal courts.

I am not actually a civil rights fanatic, as some libertarians and civil libertarians are, but nevertheless there is much wisdom in the attempt to systematically limit the exercise of government authority; and the Bill of Rights has turned out to be a useful means to this end, although by no means a perfect or optimal one.

What's disturbing is just how easy it appears to be for the government to gradually hollow out or remove the substance from our de jure rights, rendering them quite feeble de facto.
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