Your Constitutional Rights

September 29th, 2011   Submitted by Stefano Mugnaini

On a Sunday this September, street artist Mark Chase was arrested for “trespassing,” that is, for painting on his own canvasses on the sidewalk without a permit. What’s striking is not the story itself; citizens are routinely evicted from public property without justification every day. What’s striking is the dialogue between Chase and the thugs who arrested him:

“It is my constitutional right to be here without prior approval,” Chase said to the officer at one point.

Your constitutional rights have nothing to do with the law,” the officer said.

At first, this seems shocking; we have been told that the Constitution has everything to do with the law. The purpose of the US Constitution — of any written constitution — is to delineate the limits of government authority.

In practice, however, the officer was correct. His great mistake was giving the lie to the notion that the state has any intention of honoring the Constitution. All the rights that the Constitution enshrines as absolute and inviolable are under perpetual assault by government goons every single day. The law by which the state governs us has nothing to do with the original law by which the state was to be limited.

But hidden in all of this is a tremendous blessing for those who love liberty.

The increasingly paramilitary nature of law enforcement (culminating in the recent claim by an NYPD spokesman that they could “take down a plane” if necessary), the increasing frequency of violent drug raids, and the perpetual foreign wars since the Clinton administration — all provide abundant evidence that the minarchist dream of (some of) the founders has failed, and failed miserably.

Of all the charges hurled at libertarians by statists, none is as ubiquitous as the accusation that we are merely unrealistic utopians. But who, really, is the utopian? Murray Rothbard answered this well in the closing chapter of For a New Liberty,

The idea of a strictly limited constitutional State was a noble experiment that failed, even under the most favorable and propitious circumstances. If it failed then, why should a similar experiment fare any better now? No, it is the conservative laissez-fairist, the man who puts all the guns and all the decision-making power into the hands of the central government and then says, “Limit yourself”; it is he who is truly the impractical utopian.

Surrounded as we are by such a great cloud of government abuses, it is shocking that the multitudes still spring to the defense of the state, but spring they often do; the conditioning of the masses is comprehensive.

But the tendency of the modern state to reach into every aspect of our lives is a significant weakness. This will be its undoing.

Many who unflinchingly accept state violence, murder, and armed robbery on a global scale recoil in horror when government authority extends to light bulbs, lemonade stands, and street artists. While this attitude might fill us with dismay, it also gives us an opportunity to chip away at the faith in the monstrous edifice of state power.

With every outrage, cracks appear in the façade of “limited government.” A time will come when enough cracks will appear that the façade will fall, the mask will be removed, and the masses will see the state for what it is: legitimized, monopolized, unrestricted violence — slavery in a more benevolent guise. And that will be its end.

9 Responses to “Your Constitutional Rights”

  1. “the perpetual foreign wars since the Clinton administration”

    Any particular reason for picking the Clinton administration as a marker there?

    I left the US Marine Corps a little less than halfway through the Clinton administration, having joined a little less than halfway through the Reagan administration. Apart from a big bump in the middle under Bush the Elder (Panama and the first Gulf war), I wouldn’t say they were greatly different in terms of perpetual foreign war.

  2. StefanoNo Gravatar says:


    I went back and forth on that one, but part of it has to do with my age and what I remember (I’m 31). I remember the 1st Gulf War, then a lull for the first few years of Clinton, Then Somalia and Kosovo. Since W took power, it’s been continuous war ever since.

    But yours is a good point.

  3. Stefano,

    Thanks for the reply! I can see how age would affect frame of reference on the whole thing.

    I’m 44.

    When I joined the Marine Corps, the US had just invaded Grenada, withdrawn from Lebanon after the Beirut barracks bombing, and was playing chicken with Gaddafi in the Gulf of Sidra and backing the Contras in Nicaragua, the death squads in El Salvador, Iraq versus Iran in the Gulf, etc. But it seemed headed from a peak into a trough, unless the Big One with the Soviets happened to come along …

    … then there was Panama in 1989, and Kuwait in 1990/91 (I was involved in that one), which seemed like an escalation …

    … and then another trough, but not as far down from the peak, what with the no-fly zones, the Balkans, Somalia … that seemed like another de-escalation, just not as much of one, and apart from the brief tangle with Serbia (mainly to distract attention from Clinton’s blue dress problem), it didn’t seem to really kick back up until 9/11.

    So that’s my frame of reference. I can see why it would look very different to someone 10-15 years younger, or 10-15 years older.

  4. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    “their force has been compared to that of a bazooka.”

    The ‘investigative journalism’ displayed in the linked article is staggering; with any luck the degradation of the intellectual integrity of the press will go hand in hand with the death of the state.

  5. Randall StevensNo Gravatar says:

    Fox-Prava reported that U.S. born Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed today by a drone strike. The story states that, “[h]e was not believed to be a key operational leader, but as a spokesman. His English skills gave him reach among second and third generation Muslims who may not speak Arabic.”

    No trial by jury or freedom of speech for Muslims either. The Constitution is a joke, as are the elected officials and government enforcement goons who “preserve and defend” it.

  6. AllenNo Gravatar says:

    Although I’m a-political, Ron Paul at least called the strike what it was: assassination. Of course the Republican “conservatives” are trying their best to deride RP’s remarks, but being the nit-wits they are, they also undermine their own much vaunted “justice system” in the process. They want in both ways as usual.

  7. Jake42No Gravatar says:

    From what I’ve seen, cops can arbitrarily arrest anyone at any time. Cops appear to frequently invent fictitious laws on the spot. For example, painting a picture while standing on a public sidewalk. Typically, the citizen is released within a few hours, with no formal charges filed. Most judges and magistrates are unimpressed by fictitious charges. The courts generally enforce actual laws, not some cop’s fantasy law.

    The problem is that there is rarely any compensation for the victim of the bogus arrest, nor is there likely to be any penalty for the rogue policeman. If the cop beats the crap out of the arrested for no apparent reason AND that event is caught on video tape, the cop _might_ go to trial for violating someone’s civil rights. Prosecutors are extremely reluctant to prosecute their good buddies, the cops. A simple unjustified arrest wouldn’t rate the mildest verbal warning for the policeman. A collar is a collar. He done good as far as his bosses can see.

    – Jake42

  8. mary johnsonNo Gravatar says:

    Your 2nd sentence: Please help me understand how people get away with this! ” ..people are routinely evicted from public property without justification every day.”

    I live in Washingon State and have had this threatened by an attorney if I return to the public business from which I was just terminated. I’ve shopped there, peacefully, several times in the past month, but the Executive Director of the business doesn’t want me there. No other reason. Can I really be arrested?