I apologize for not writing this article on eight rights of the Declaration of Independence–seven of them omitted by the Constitution. Instead, because each of the eight rights deserves more discussion than can be given to it in one article, I have decided to write eight articles on eight rights of the Declaration; opining on what we have been missing due to each right’s omission from the Constitution and how, if all eight were in the Constitution, our lives would be better.
Rights exist independently of and are precedent to government. This is confirmed by the Constitution, itself. The Ninth Amendment states that, “the enumeration, in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Which of the people’s rights are retained if not those of the Declaration of Independence? These are the rights revolutionaries fought , killed, and died for, less than a decade before the Constitution was drafted. The right to safety was so important to the signers of the Declaration that they believed any new government should be established upon principles and powers most likely to affect the people’s safety and happiness. It is ironic and disappointing that the right to safety and six other rights of the Declaration of Independence were ignored by the Constitution.
In contemporary society, it is reasonable that the word “safety” applies to economic safety (having a stable economy with diverse job opportunities and a safe and healthful place to work), social safety (e.g., the social security pension); environmental safety (having a clean, non-polluting, sustainable environment); health safety (having preventable health care, health maintenance and treatment); educational safety (having a balanced education premised on the development of the multi-faceted and multi-skilled individuals); and homeland/military safety.
We can acknowledge the right to safety as a right independent of the Constitution, but unless it becomes a stated right of the Constitution it will not be enforced by government nor held to be equal to constitutional rights by either the public or courts of law. Let us now question whether certain events of the last fifteen years would have happened had there been a long-standing constitutional right to safety.
- Would the Louisiana levees have been properly maintained to hold during Hurricane Katrina?
- Would the Clearwater Horizon Oil Spill have occurred?
- Would there have been a Newtown Massacre had the Second Amendment been argued and interpreted in the context of the right to safety?
- Would 9/11 have happened?
- Would we have invaded Iraq without paying for it and jeopardizing economic security?
- Would the financial risks and unsubstantiated exaggerations of assets, responsible for much of the economic upheaval of 2008-2012, have gone unnoticed by regulators had there been a right to economic safety?
- Would Plaza Towers Elementary School have had a safe room when the EF5 El Reno Tornado made its deadly strike?
- Would universal health coverage exist today in the United States?
- Would the Republican Party ignore overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change?
- Would full contact football still be popular (or legal) in public high school?
- Would background checks for all gun purchases be required and would cartridge limitations be placed on automatic and semi-automatic weapons?
Few of the above or similar events would have occurred had there been a constitutional right to safety. For future reference, the executive branch’s budget needs more funds in reserve for unanticipated catastrophic events to reduce the dependence on Congress for expeditious funding.
Puerto Rico is now in the midst of a Zika crisis and Florida has reported its first cases of locally-contracted Zika. Health officials cannot promise containment. If there were a right to safety, it is doubtful that Congress would have ignored pleas from the President and public health officials to return from a two-month recess to fund Zika virus research which is directed towards the development of a vaccine to immunize women and their potential sexual partners to prevent microcephaly.
In conclusion, America needs to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence by amending the Constitution to add a right to safety. Because of congressional dysfunction, this objective can only be accomplished by passage at an Article Five Convention with ratification by the state legislatures or ratifying conventions.
If you found this article to be provocative, you’ll find Boaz’s book, Seven Rights for Citizen Slackers to be revolutionary. Expected publication in soft cover and e-book by late September or early October, 2016. Download 3 Free Chapters from the book here http://www.article5alive.org/signup/
Next: Boaz’s blog 007. Capital Punishment and the right to life.