What’s wrong with a bill of rights?

I don’t usually leave opinions up here.  Considering that only 3 people view this regularly, I’ll probably lose their patronage if I started ranting.  So this will be a rare thing…even though every other blog does it.

A bill of rights is a good thing….if you don’t have a strong, independent judiciary like we have in Australia.  If you have a strong judiciary, a bill of rights becomes problematic. 

The thing is, universal human rights are a good idea, but they change over time.  300 years ago, the idea of men who didn’t own land having the vote was ludicrous. 100 years ago, the idea of women voting was ludicrous.  80 years ago, the idea of having access to free healthcare or unemployment benefits was abhorrent. 50 years ago, equal treatment for all races, colours, creeds and sex was laughable. 20 years ago, the idea of having a right of control over who has your private information was ludicrous….and then times change and the rights change.

They don’t only expand, they also contract, and this is where a bill of rights becomes problematic.  A right to organise militias and bear arms was, 200 years ago in the US, an important right.  Now, while still on the bill, it’s of slightly less use….but can they get it removed?  Not without a lot of problems. 

The number 1 problem being that you’d have to set up a way to remove it which won’t be open to abuse by the wrong people in power. This is difficult. Essentially, such a system is too rigid to change over time.  If universal rights were exactly that, then it wouldn’t be a problem, but they change and a bill is too rigid to change.

On the other hand, a strong judiciary is a great way to uphold rights and keep it flexible.  You know how many rights the Australian constitution protects?  One.  And it’s implied.  Are we oppressed? Under the thumb of a harsh government? No.

And when society decides, for whatever reason, that, oh i dunno, thanks to improving communications and highly contagious diseases, we don’t need a right to free assembly, then they’ll be there to effect it.  If we had a bill of rights, well we’d all be infected, wouldn’t we.


4 Responses

  1. Hey I aint complaining. I agree. We’ve been fighting for it for ages. http://greensmps.org.au/content/an-australian-bill-rights

  2. So rant! So who’s the third reader? this looks like 2 to me!

  3. Actually Tim, I was saying the opposite. We don’t need one. I don’t agree with the greens that we risk having our rights trampled on thanks to a lack of constitutionally guaranteed rights. We’ve got a great judiciary, a very strong opposition (how many other countries have their opposition leaders meet with foreign leaders on a regular basis) and compulsory voting means that our apathetic voters are still infinitely more politically active than in other countries. This, imho, is more than enough protection. more flexible too.

  4. …another secret reader…

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