Monday, January 2, 2012

A Flaw in the Constitution?

No institution based on a set of firm principles can survive if it allows members who hold opposite principles. Imagine if the AMA allowed witch doctors among its members, or if the American Physical Society (physicists, not massage therapists!) allowed flat-Earther's to be members. It would guarantee the end of medicine or physics.

Yet the United States, an institution founded on the principle of individual rights, allows citizens who actively promote socialism and communism -- in education, law and government.

I'm an advocate of free speech, but I don't think that means a nation should have to tolerate those among it who openly reject, by their own word and deed, the core founding principle of the country--individual rights--and work to subvert it every waking minute of their day.

I'm not saying criminalize those who reject individual rights, except where they commit crimes. But there's an enormous gulf between agreeing with individual rights and commiting crimes that prove you don't agree with individual rights. Socialists and communists -- and now Islamists -- have been working that angle for almost 100 years. I wouldn't allow them in the country to do it. In absence of a state of war against them, I would at least evict them. (In a state of war I would imprison them until the state of war is ended.)

Politicians who try to make law that violates individual rights, or who achieve that end and find it ruled unconstitutional -- should immediately lose their job and be deported. Teachers who openly advocate doctrines that violate individual rights should be judged similarly--they should be deported.

It's not a violation of their rights to deport them. It's a basic condition of "membership", or citizenship. Today, naturalized citizens or members of the military are asked to declare loyalty to the Constitution; all I'm doing is refining that statement and taking it seriously. I think everyone reaching the age of 18 should be required to take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution and to the principle of individual rights. Natural-born or naturalized citizens alike who breech that oath should all be stripped of citizenship.

There should be a formal mechanism to determine that fact, a kind of court separate from the criminal courts, dedicated to one question: does this person reject individual rights? A legal process similar to a criminal trial, but with only one penalty: loss of citizenship and deportation. Bring charges and present objective evidence based on a person's words, actions and writings, and if overwhelming (as it would be in the case of someone like Obama or Pelosi or William Ayers) strip them of their citizenship and deport them as "subversives" who are incompatible with the principles of the United States of America.

It couldn't have been done before now, because until Ayn Rand there was no objective definition of individual rights. It probably couldn't be done until a rational philosophy becomes dominant, at least in the sense that it was dominant when the Founders created the United States. You'd get the religious people campaigning to make God a requirement, too. But imagine if it had been in place from the beginning, with a basically sound rational philosophy for the country--even the religious people who advocate violations of rights could have been evicted as "undesirable".

I've asked myself repeatedly if this notion somehow violates free speech. Is it wrong to demand a loyalty oath? We already do that, we just don't enforce it. If you demand a loyalty oath, is it wrong to define it precisely, in objective terms, on the basis of the one idea that one *should* demand loyalty to--fealty to individual rights? And if you have a loyalty oath, is it wrong to take it seriously and enforce it with real consequences? Does that violate "free speech"? I don't think so.

Yes, the idea could be abused if someone attempted to implement it today. But I always come back to the principle I stated above, which I think is true:
No institution based on a set of firm principles can survive if it allows members who hold opposite principles.
Ayn Rand put it somewhat differently:
"When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side."
I'm simply saying, define the basic principle of our government, clearly and openly--and put it into practice as more than a slogan.  In the absence of recognizing that, I'd say the chances for the long-term survival of any rational society are bleak.


  1. I am glad you wrote this. I have been wrestling with the subjects of immigration in general and Muslim immigration in particular for about two years now. I was having great difficulty in reconciling the reality of the true nature of Islam and individual rights. I keep saying to myself "the way most Objectivists approach individual rights, Objectivism seems to be a suicide pact because there is no way to prevent the immigration of Muslims and thus the spread of Sharia Creep."

    What you are advocating would solve the problem of immigration, the problem of Islam and Muslims, the problem of Hispanics and La Razza, the problem of the Black Panthers, etc.. I would still want a real tight philosophical grounding for it. I would say off the cuff that the argument would be that if you argue for the violation of individual rights that means that you are agitating for the initiation of physical force. That *in and of itself* means that you are a potential threat. Therefore you will have violated your oath of citizenship and can be deported.

    There would need to be a good mechanism in place for this and you would also have to have a society that has internalized the NIOF principle in a sound way. We are a long way from that. But I think that you have hit on something important that Objectivists need to focus on.

    A stable, secure nation requires a citizenry dedicated to a firm set of principles. If you betray those principles you pave the way for the destruction of your civilization. The only group who approaches politics that way are the Paleo-Conservatives. But there principles are a racialist, religious, ethnic collectivist sort. The Objectivist politics needs to incorporate the same approach but with our individualist premises.


  2. Hi Robb,

    My name is also Robb, and I found your blog because I wanted to start a robbservations of my own (now on Wordpress). Anyway, I find you have an interesting perspective, although I often don't agree. This post was particularly troubling though, so I felt obligated to point out a few things.

    Firstly, there are a few logistical issues with your argument. How do you deport a natural-born citizen? That is, to where? I don't think there is a more egregious example of violating someone's individual rights than deporting them from their country of origin for ideological reasons.

    I agree that our country was founded upon the principle of individual rights. It's why our democracy has been so successful. However, I disagree with your premise that an institution cannot survive if it allows members with opposite beliefs. The Communist Party USA has existed since 1919, and has never seriously threatened to hold real political power. They are defeated because they are proved wrong and outvoted, not because we expel them by force of law. Our country is made stronger because we allow communists to express their beliefs, not weaker.

    Furthermore, I think "fealty to individual rights" is not as black and white as you seem to suggest. A loyalty oath with regards to a person or institution makes sense. A loyalty oath to a concept is much more abstract.It could be interpreted to mean that someone expressing opposition to gay marriage would be deported. Or take the issue of abortion, in which one could frame individual rights as belonging to the woman making a choice about her own body, or the fetus depending on your definition of "life".

    As someone who espouses libertarian beliefs, I am frankly very surprised that you would advocate for an extra-legal branch of government, with the power to remove citizenship and deport people, under guidelines that could surely be manipulated for political purposes. It reminds me very much of the thought police in George Orwell's 1984. And much like Emmanuel Goldstein, the specter of communism is invoked to justify increased government power and demand loyalty from citizens. Communism is much less a threat to our nation than the temptation to coerce citizens to adhere to a specific ideology.

    I hope I have not been too combative and have provided some food for thought.

    -- other Robb

  3. Other Robb,
    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments. My proposal is much more narrow than you suggest, however. We already, today, have loyalty oaths to the Constitution. My suggestion is merely to narrow that to the committment to the concept of "individual rights", and no other. What is an individual right? I suggest that understanding this should not be beyond the capability of anyone wanting to vote in the U.S. That seems a bare minimum to me: such people should *not* be allowed to vote. And likewise, I have no issue whatsoever with keeping such people out of government. They shouldn't be able to run for election, hold office, serve in the military or be hired to sweep the floor in any government building.

    Should such people who do understand the concept of individual rights and openly reject that concept also be able to live in the United States (or any country) while working to undermine it in positions of politics, academia, media or other? That's a different question. But as long as the scope of the legal mechanism is constitutionally restricted to one question and one only -- does this person reject individual rights -- I will admit the possibility. Right now we do face serious consequences brought about in part by many decades of allowing communists and now, Islamists, to participate in our society. But I keep going back to my original point: No institution based on a set of firm principles can survive if it allows members who hold opposite principles. Do you disagree with that? That would be worth discussing. But if you agree with it, how do you resolve it? That is the question.

    As for the coincidence of blog names, while I have no copyright on "Robbservations", I've been using it for some years, and I would advise finding a different name, simply to avoid the inevitable confusion between our views, since we do differ in them. People mistaking your views for mine is sure to arise when people do web searches on "Robbservations". In fact, were it not for history that I simply can't remove from Google, I would change the name of my blog simply to avoid that confusion myself.


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