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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Foundations

Generally, it can be said that America was founded upon the principle of freedom to pursue money. Look quickly at the Bill of Rights.

Of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, the Nineth and Tenth simply state what is already implied - that the Constitution is not meant to say what either the states or the people can do. It only says what the federal government can and cannot do.

The EIghth Amendment reads, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." That this deals primarily with monetary matters should be apparent on its face.

The Seventh Amendment reads: "In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." Twenty dollars? The government cannot deprive you of more than twenty dollars without using a jury of your peers - which should (theoretically) be sympathetic to you keeping your money.

The Sixth Amendment reads: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense." Although this is not about money on its face, it was in fact put in place precisely because of the monetary expense suffered by colonials who were tried by the Crown. A speedy and public trial? Well, you can't very well make any money while in prison - which means you can lose your house, your car, your business - everything (okay, they didn't have cars back then - substitute "horse and carriage"). In colonial America, some cases had to be tried in England - and the defense had to pay for its witnesses to make the long journey across the ocean. The prosecution, in order to spare itself the expense of transporting witnesses, would often substitute a written deposition - sometimes without identifying who had given that statement. The defense could not compel a witness to leave home and hearth for England, but only entice them with promises of rich accomodations. This Amendment, you see, defends your possession of money in legal defense.

The Fifth Amendment reads: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Requiring a grand jury to stand trial for an "infamous crime", i.e. a felony, means that defense costs were cut by throwing out frivolous suits early. Likewise with the double-jeopardy clause. It is telling that "property" is included as a right in this Amendment (thank you, Alexander Hamilton) and it is mentioned directly in relation to compensation. Again, this is clearly about money.

The Fourth Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Obviously, this prevents valuables from being light-fingered by policemen.

The Third Amendment reads: "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." Again, this spares individuals (particularly the wealthy) from paying for the "privelege" of having the Army occupy your house.

The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." What better way to keep your money than ensure every household has a gun and knows how to use it?

The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Make no mistake here - the biggest reason our wealthy founders did not want an established religion is that they didn't want their money going to support a religion they didn't believe in. Guaranteeing freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and petition are merely a means of guaranteeing that they did not see this primary freedom become eroded by organized religions railing their faithful against the government for lack of favoritism (sound familiar?).

So, with the emphasis on protecting the right of people to hold onto money, it should come as no surprise that exactly how much of that money someone keeps and how much they surrender back to the government through taxation should be such a divisive issue for our country.

Yes, I said "surrender back to the government". Money isn't just magically made to appear. It is created by government action, regulated by government rules, and backed by government policy, treasury, and faith.

I'll spend a few days on taxation - when, why, how much, etc. I'm sure it will cause all sorts of excitement, and I hope to hear some of it back.

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