from the Congress Action newsletter

Constitutional Protections Ignored

by: Kim Weissman
September 3, 2000

On numerous past occasions, this page has editorialized about the importance of a fixed Constitution that does not "grow" or change on the basis of shifting political whim or the "personal predilections" (Supreme Court Justice Scalia's phrase) of nine justices of the Supreme Court. Many people in our society, however, like the idea of a "living" Constitution that, in essence, reflects nothing more than the political and cultural desires of any given popular majority at any given moment in time; a "living" Constitution that allows the federal government to identify a problem, and then take whatever steps are deemed necessary to "solve" it. Prescription drug benefits; environmental mandates; spending excess tax collections (the budget surplus) on popular social programs; government threats, intimidation, and lawsuits against unpopular private industries; the list of concerns that may be addressed by governmental activism, when unconstrained by any Constitutional limitations, is literally endless.

When Constitutional restrictions are ignored or circumvented in the name of some "greater good", the government is then motivated to act by what James Madison called the "tyranny of the majority". When it does so, it inevitably acts to the detriment of the rights of minorities — whether those be politically correct race, ethnic, or gender minorities; or politically incorrect minorities such as businesses, smokers, gun owners, or people with religious beliefs.

But after all, isn't it true that we are living in a democracy, and that in our society, the majority rules? Actually, no, that is not correct. The Founders of this nation did not create a democracy. They created a Constitutional Republic, and for very good reasons, enunciated by James Madison: "Place three individuals in a situation wherein the interest of each depends on the voice of the others; and give to two of them an interest opposed to the rights of the third. Will the latter be secure? The prudence of every man would shun the danger." But the Constitution also says that the federal government should "promote the general Welfare", so doesn't that allow it to act whenever someone suggests that the general welfare of the nation may be improved?

Again, no, as Madison explained: "With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." In other words, there are firm, fixed, and well defined limits beyond which the federal government may not go, regardless of any "greater good", or alleged "general welfare". Those limits were imposed for one purpose — to preserve individual liberty.

Governments are of two general varieties: those that have limits to their powers, and those with no limits to their powers. Our national government was created with severe limits to its powers, fixed and well defined restrictions on what it was permitted to do. Those restrictions are contained in our Constitution. Of the other variety — governments with no limits to their powers — communist China is presently the most visible example.

China, in the words of the U.S. State Department,

"…continued to commit widespread and well-documented human rights abuses… . These abuses stemmed from the authorities' extremely limited tolerance of public dissent aimed at the Government, fear of unrest, and the limited scope or inadequate implementation of laws protecting basic freedoms. The Constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights; however, these protections often are ignored in practice. … The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press, and increased controls on the Internet; self-censorship by journalists also increased. The Government severely restricted freedom of assembly, and continued to restrict freedom of association. The Government continued to restrict freedom of religion…". — 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices — China; released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State; February 25, 2000

But many people in the U.S. — especially many of the leftists who consider themselves to be the cultural elite in this country — continue to praise communist China (among other totalitarian communist, socialist, and Marxist societies), and to proclaim sympathy with many of China's policies and practices, in particular, its population control policies.

On June 24, 1998, Jane Fonda accused the Christian Coalition of indifference to children who "don't look like them... [who aren't] white, middle-class Christians." Asked about China's forced-abortion policy, Fonda replied: "We've got to remember something. China has experienced a famine in which fifty million people died. We don't even know what that... feels like... It's a survival thing... Could they do their family planning better? Of course. Should we force them to by pulling down a curtain and punishing them? I don't think so. I mean, I've spent time in China."

"…vetting applications for Mr. [Ted] Turner's $1 billion U.N. gift is Tim Worth, who retired from the Senate ahead of an S&L probe to campaign for population control and global warming restrictions. The first U.N. grant of Mr. Turner's money goes to make up for abortion funds the U.S. Congress opposes…". — Wall Street Journal; July 10, 1998.

"When U.S. business leaders traveled to China recently, they took great pains to please their Chinese hosts. So much so that some of them may have forgotten the differences between freedom and oppression. … 'Whose definition of human rights do you use? [asked one business leader] Feeding, clothing and sheltering 1.2 billion people is a big job. They're living better than at any time in their history. That's human rights.' Are the Chinese living better? Yes… But at what cost? The Chinese government still sets quotas on the number of children a couple may have. Officials enforce it with infanticide." — Investors Business Daily, October 4, 1999.

It is in the population control policies of China that we see the true face of a government that acknowledges no limits to its power — as though, after all the totalitarian atrocities witnessed by the Twentieth Century, we need another example of the potential for abuse inherent in a government unconstrained by Constitutional limitations.

"China has been shaken by one of the most horrifying cases of official infanticide in recent memory after family planners drowned a healthy baby in front of its parents. The actions of the officials in the village of Caidian, in the central Hubei province — carried out as part of China's one-child policy — caused a public outcry which forced the Hubei government to pledge that those responsible would be punished, a rarity in such cases. … The baby's mother…was forcibly injected with a saline solution to induce labour and kill the child. However, the baby was born healthy, to the surprise of family planning officials who had ordered the injection…. Immediately after the birth, they ordered the father to kill the child outside the hospital. He refused to obey but was so scared of further punishment that he left the crying baby behind in an office building, where it was found by a doctor shortly afterwards. … He removed the umbilical cord, administered vaccinations and then sent the family home. Five officials were waiting for them in their living room. During the ensuing argument, the officials grabbed the baby, dragged it out of the house and drowned it in a paddy field in front of its parents." — London Times, August 24, 2000.

"'Family Planning Is Everybody's Responsibility' declares one of the many slogans daubed on the walls of Caidian township, where an official investigation has been launched into the murder of a newborn baby by a group of government officials. …What the high-minded slogans do not say, but what the residents of Caidian know only too well, is that China's population-control policies allow petty bureaucrats across the country a free hand to ruin people's lives as they extort bribes and gifts and dispense life-or-death decisions." — London Telegraph, August 27, 2000.

According to a fact sheet released by the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom, "Assessments are imposed on multi-birth families to enable society to bring up their children." [emphasis added] This represents both a restriction on having too many childbirths and an obligation of those responsible to pay a certain compensation to society." Clearly, China is a society manifesting the philosophy that It Takes A Village to raise a child. The Chinese Embassy fact sheet went on to assure readers that "Forced abortion and sterilization are strictly prohibited by the Chinese laws and offenders will be punished according to law."

The Chinese government through its UK Embassy fact sheet issued assurances that China's population control policies are not coercive. The U.S. State Department's 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in China, however, concluded otherwise:

"Minorities in some rural areas are permitted to have as many as four children, but increasingly, authorities are pressuring minorities to limit births. … Population control policy relies on education, propaganda, and economic incentives, as well as on more coercive measures, including psychological pressure and economic penalties. The national family planning policy is implemented through provincial and local regulations. … If a couple has two children, those regulations require that either the man or woman undergo sterilization. … Rewards for couples who adhere to family planning policies include monthly stipends and preferential medical and educational benefits. …Disciplinary measures against those who violate policies can include fines (sometimes called a 'fee for unplanned birth' or a 'social compensation fee'), withholding of social services, demotion, and other administrative punishments that sometimes result in loss of employment. Fines for giving birth without authorization vary, but they can be a formidable disincentive."

"A tradition of infanticide and abandonment, especially of females, existed in China before the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949. … The practice was largely forsaken in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s… . But the number of 'missing' women showed a sharp upward trend in the 1980s, linked by almost all scholars to the 'one-child policy' introduced by the Chinese government in 1979 to control spiraling population growth. Couples are penalized by wage-cuts and reduced access to social services when children are born 'outside the plan.' … in September 1997, the World Health Organization's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific issued a report claiming that 'more than 50 million women were estimated to be 'missing' in China because of the institutionalized killing and neglect of girls due to Beijing's population control program that limits parents to one child'." — Gendercide Watch

Why should we care about strict adherence to the limitations imposed on our government by our Constitution? China provides the example of the pursuit of a politically correct and internationally popular "greater good", when accompanied by, in the words of the State Department, "…inadequate implementation of laws protecting basic freedoms." Our Constitution is the law that protects our basic freedoms. It was designed to limit the power of government so as to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". Increasingly, we have been ignoring those limits, usually in the name of some "greater good" or "general welfare". We do so at our great peril.

The above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
Contact him prior to reproducing. 

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3 sep 2000