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A Few Rights a Constitution Should Protect

A Few Rights a Constitution Should Protect

Alexander R. Cohen

2 mins
September 18, 2012

Today is Constitution Day, and while the Constitution we inherit from America’s Founders is easy to praise, it doesn’t take much looking to find things the government it authorizes is doing wrong. So let’s take a moment to ask ourselves what a better constitution would do.

Here are a few thoughts:

It would guarantee every citizen the right to a trial if the government wanted to kill, imprison, or fine him. For example, you couldn’t be indefinitely detained just because the president said so, and you couldn’t face a much longer sentence for a crime of which you’re convicted just because you insisted on a trial .

It would protect your property. For example, if a politically connected business wanted your house, it would have to make you an offer you were willing to accept, not use the power of government to force you to sell on its terms. And the government couldn’t send inspectors to search your property just because you were conducting business there.

It would protect your right to free speech. For example, if you thought your product could save lives, you could tell potential customers that without waiting for a federal bureaucracy to agree with you. And no one would worry that opposing a president’s reelection might lead to getting audited by government agencies .

I could keep writing: There are lots of rights a better constitution might protect—all the corollaries of the right to live by one’s own judgment, produce and keep values, and pursue one’s own happiness. I didn’t even try to pick the most important ones, let alone to list all of them.

Of course, some of us think the Constitution we have already prohibits many of the rights violations we see around us. If we’re right, the question is: How can we uphold it?

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