One of the claims that I’ve heard for the last 10-15 years is that The Constitution is a “living document” that should be constantly reinterpreted to deal with constantly changing society and situations.
Of course, this “change” that some people want is always in the direction of bigger, more intrusive government and more restrictions on individuals. And the method they want to use to increase government power is to simply “reinterpret” the Constitution. The most common ploy is to simply redefine words or phrases. One came under attack a few years ago by some business people who wanted to build hotels or casinos or something (a private venture) on land which was owned by private individuals, who just happened to have the bad luck to have their houses on their land. The people who owned the land that the business people wanted to build on refused to sell. So, the business people asked the government to take the land from these homeowners, and give it to the business people, so they could build their profit-making private business.
This is an excerpt from the 5th Amendment:
“nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
This is the so-called “eminent domain” clause, which simply means that if the Federal Government wants to buy your land for “public use,” it has to offer “just compensation” (essentially, market value). This is most often used today to buy up land where the government wants to put a highway. but could be any of the “federal properties” mentioned in the Constitution.
So, how did the businessmen get around this? Simple. They had the legislators redefine one word in the 5th Amendment, and with that small change, that few people even knew of, the government could take, under threat of force, people’s HOMES, and hand them over to land developers who wanted to build privately-owned, profit-making businesses! The change? Just redefine “public” to include “private.”
While we out here in the cities and states always thought we knew what these simple words used in the Constitution meant, we now find out that in Washington, “public” can mean “public,” OR “private.” One has to wonder how much money flowed from the lobbiests to the legislators to get that bit of deception passed.
How did the developers get the FEDERAL government to take this action, since the homeowners were all in one state? Again, some simple redefinition of a few words and phrases. It seems that the businesspeople claimed they were in “interstate commerce” since much of the material to be used to build the businesses would come from other states; many of the construction workers would come from out of state; and many of the customers of these businesses would also come from out of state.
Many who understand The Constitution feel secure that the federal government’s power will remain reigned in, and that our rights will remain secure. However, if the government can, on a whim, “redefine” common words used in The Constitution to mean whatever they want, including the opposite of what any dictionary will tell you they mean, then no man is safe, and no rights can be taken for granted.
Orwell had a term for this: Doublespeak.
Your “rights,” as the government sees them, can change from day to day, or according to what group you belong to. If your “rights” exist only because The State allows you to retain them, they are not “rights” at all – but merely privileges. “Rights” are something you have. Privileges are something you are allowed to have by those who “rule” you. They are granted to you; they are not inherently yours. And, those who grant privileges can just as easily take those privileges away. Consider the consequences.