The Instigator
salve
Pro (for)
Winning
15 Points
The Contender
GMDebater
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

That we should abandon the Bill of Rights

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
salve
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/22/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,376 times Debate No: 17187
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (3)

 

salve

Pro

I stand as pro to abolish The United States' Bill of Rights; (henceforth BOR) an inherently undemocratic document that, while intending to protect human rights, in fact ends up harming them. I realise this topic seems pretty odd, but it's something of an issue in Australia right now as some groups want to impose a Bill of Rights.

Welcome,

I'm searching for an opponent to tell me why we should keep the United States' Bill of Rights.

The way I'm envisaging this debate as going is:

Round 1: Introductions and definitions-acceptance or rebuttal of definitions in the Con's first round

Round 2-4: Arguments and rebuttal

Definitions

We-The United States Government

Should-ought to do something

Abandon-abolish and no longer consider important

Bill of Rights-the first ten amendments to the constitution announcing certain social and political freedoms that the government cannot restrict. If it is suspected that a violation of these rights has been accomplished, the issue can be taken to court and decided by (usually Supreme court) judges.

Rules

I'd prefer it if people didn't argue semantically about the definition-we want an actual debate on the issue, not one on definitions.

Other than that, however my opponent wishes to defend the BOR is fine, as long as it does not involve profanity, etc.

I look forward to my opponent accepting this debate, and to discussing this issue.




GMDebater

Con

I am very much opposed to abandoning the bill of rights. I am interested in your arguments. I accept terms, conditions and definitions. Good luck
Debate Round No. 1
salve

Pro

The Bill of Rights is a document that not only promotes outdates conceptions of our human rights, but also is also designed so that the common will of the people are not followed. Although the Bill of Rights was designed with the intention of protecting human rights, it has done the opposite, harming both our democratic and other rights.

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate and the definitions that I put forward. I wish him the best of luck in this debate.

Today, on team Pro, I will be putting forward three major arguments for the Bill of Rights to be abolished-that is is unnecessary and that our important rights are already protected, that it is a basically undemocratic document and that it harms our rights. If these arguments are to be believed, as I will argue, we should abolish the Bill of Rights.

Argument One-The Bill of Rights is entirely unnecessary

If the Bill of Rights were removed, America’s human rights would remain intact, as they are protected by numerous other sources-specifically, our rights are already sufficiently protected in three other ways. Firstly, we can see that valuable human rights would be protected both by common law and by legislature that has already been implemented-for example, the Fourth Amendment protecting against unlawful search and seizure is protected in most nations by internal police regulation and by common law denoting that unlawfully obtained evidence cannot usually be used in court. The Bill of Rights is entirely unnecessary because its job is done by our established common and legislative law systems and codes.

Secondly, these human rights are also protected by the international community. America’s membership of the UN and of certain international treaties is dependant upon their upholding certain human rights standards-if they were to be broken, America would be attacked by the international community and would likely suffer through being removed from trade agreements.

Thirdly, they are protected by the people. As I will expand on later, our human rights are and should be protected by the democratic representatives of the people of America-if there were violations of valuable human rights, then the party doing so would be promptly removed from government. A political party would be unlikely to pursue this sort of course of action because they would realise the electoral consequences and work hard to make sure they didn’t suffer from them. Thus, our human rights are early protected by our legal systems, our international relations and the democratic systems in place-the Bill of Rights is entirely unnecessary.

Argument Two-The Bill of Rights is undemocratic

The mechanism by which the BOR supposedly protects human rights is that decisions made by the government may be challenged and overturned in court. This means that power is, instead of being given to the people, given to unelected judges and those who wrote and approved it over 200 years ago. The decision to award and restrict rights should go to the people for three reasons. Firstly, in the same way that the people should be able to vote for whichever representative they want, it is unfair that we live under documents that government our lives without the consent of the governed. Secondly, the people should be able to choose when to regulate certain rights because they know better than rigid documents when rights need to be restricted-for example, in a time of war, it may be necessary to restrict the 1st Amendment, which states that congress may not abridge the freedom of the press; when there are great dangers to national security, it should be up to the people of that nation to make these choices because they know their own circumstances best. Thirdly, because rights are not objective realities but rather subjective concepts that may change over time, we should allow the common people to make decisions over which rights need to be protected and which do not. For these three reasons, we can see that it is the common people that should make decisions about the role of the government in their lives-this is something that the Bill of Rights restricts because it hands over these sorts of decisions to the courts and to old documents rather than the people.

I expect my opponent to claim that the Bill of Rights, too, can be changed by the vote of the people. However, this is extremely difficult for a few reasons. Firstly, it would have to pass both the senate and the house of representatives by a majority of two thirds of the overall number of votes. This step is extremely improbable-for an amendment to be passed under our current congress, there would need to be bipartisan consent from both parties. Further, it seems extremely unlikely that any party would be able to manage to hold such a large majority of both houses. Second, after this, it would have to be agreed to by three quarters of the states-something that is similarly quite unlikely due to large blocs of states whose allegiances normally move towards one party. Furthermore, even if the process by which the Bill of Rights is changed was not in itself something that would delay progress, it is also unlikely to be changed even due to popular will because voters may be swayed by rhetoric surrounding the changes that would have to be made to the Bill of Rights.

In this way, the Bill of Rights takes away power from the people because decisions go to unelected judges and possible amendments have to jump through various hoops and meet an extraordinarily high standard of support. On the Pro side, we believe democratic governments shouldn’t discourage reform in this way-they should leave important choices to the will of the common people.

Argument Three-The Bill of Rights hurts human rights

This takes place in two ways.

Firstly, it promotes a system of frozen rights-as I have explained, the Bill of Rights means that reforms are likely not to take place. Apart from this being fundamentally undemocratic, it also means that certain concepts of rights are preserved over time when they should not be-for example, the one argument commonly put forward against gun control is that it would be unconstitutional because gun rights are protected under the Bill of Rights, even though the original context of these restrictions on the government’s regulation on gun control were entirely different from those in our contemporary society. However, on the Pro side of this debate, we believe old conceptions of rights should not be considered as arguments against changing our own laws-using the example of gun control, we should decide based on our own circumstances, not on the entirely different circumstances of our predecessors. For this reason, the Bill of Rights hurts human rights in that it encourages frozen rights-old conceptions of rights that nonetheless influence our own decisions today.

Secondly, keeping the Bill of Rights means that we have become more and more complacent about human rights in our nation. The Bill of Rights is often considered as a strong protection against human rights abuses-however, because we feel that our human rights are already protected by such documents, the American public is less interested in human rights abuses that are not documented by the Bill of Rights such as that of the torture that took place in Guantanamo Bay. In these two ways, the Bill of Rights harms human rights in America.

The Bill of Rights is a defunct document-it is unnecessary, undemocratic and unhelpful. I urge voters to support abolishing the Bill of Rights and ensuring that we no longer live under such an outdated conception of human rights.

I wish my opponent the best of luck next round and in the rest of the debate.



GMDebater

Con

The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect the people from totalitarian encroachment from their government. It is from the bill of rights that legislative code is derived, because of the explicit limitations imposed on government by the Bill of Rights. The argument then, that the BOR is "entirely unnecessary because its job is done by our established common and legislative law systems and codes" holds no water because the source of legislated law is derived from the constitution in totality (of which the BOR is a vital component). As for "human rights" being "protected by the international community" I would only ask the opponent to consider the means of protection? Even assuming that the US submits to the UN (which it categorically does not) what would the UN do to the US if it didn't uphold human rights? Sanctions? The United States is a permanent member of the UN security council, meaning that anything that the UN does -has to be approved by the US because the US has veto power. Case and point- China (I can explain in greater detail later). Moreover, the US does not recognize UN authority as superior to that of the US. For the US to submit to the UN is to undermine US sovereignty, which is infeasible considering the global political economy is in a unipolar hegemonic state -i.e. the US is top dog and no one can challenge us -for now. For the third point of argument one, people, if given the opportunity, are inclined to yield liberty for security. The historical examples of this range from Nazi Germany to the election and legacy of FDR. Because people are inclined to cede liberty for security (against their best interest) a check to ensure balance is necessary -that check being the constitution and the BOR. This is the crux of our majority rule/minority right system. The constitution begins with We the People, The People, being the citizens of the US -the source from which all just power is derived. The BOR itself does not stand as a barrier to protection of human rights, rather it serves to outline what they are and how they are to be upheld by placing specific limitations on what the government can do.

Onto argument 2. The mechanisms by which the BOR serves to limit governmental encroachments on the rights of the people are executive, legislative, and judicial. The BOR does not apply to only one branch of government, but to all 3. The Judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court INTERPRETS the constitution to ensure that no body (including the judiciary itself) has violated the constitution. Power is not deprived from the people, merely safeguarded by the judiciary. The purpose of the constitution and the BOR is to ensure that the people are not deprived to the right of consent by the governed -in that regard it serves to frame the structure of our government and outline the powers to be afforded to all three branches. Secondly, people do not "choose" rights, rights are natural and flow from natural law (Read up on some John Locke). The BOR merely serves to specifically limit what the government can and cannot do to prevent tyranny -which it has (and would more effectively if it were more respected these days). Thirdly, because rights flow from natural law and all people are created equal, what would be "democratic" or just about letting people choose what rights ought to be protected or not be protected? The fact remains that the US on a purely structural note is not a pure democracy, but a modified one. Originally, we were a republic. Now, our governmental structure more or less comprises elements of both. If we are all created equally, what right would I have to deprive you of your rights? What right would you have to deprive me of mine? Groups (majorities) are composed of people who all have equal rights. Numerical supremacy does not grant authority to a majority to deprive a minority of their rights (life, liberty and property) without just cause (for example, like if someone has been convicted of murder, it would be justified to deprive that person of their liberty). Innocent parties, however, cannot be justifiably deprived of their rights. There is the possibility that the constitution may be amended, but as my opponent points out that is an extremely difficult process and for good reason -to protect the rights of the people from the political whims of the present. The Pro seems fixated on this notion of democracy, but he has offered no evidence to substantiate the claim that the BOR is undemocratic -only a fundamental misunderstanding of the BOR, the constitution and the respective application of both documents to US governmental structure.

And now Argument 3. Rights do not evolve over time. Rights are inherent to human hind, on an individual level. They are Life, Liberty and Property (or as Jefferson would describe property, "the pursuit of happiness"). Reforms, then, are unnecessary because rights are static. It is true, that interpretational issues have been a hot topic of contention for the duration of this nation -but the same applies to laws. Do we follow the letter of the law? The spirit of the law? The intent of the law? The same questions can and have been asked for the constitution/ the BOR. PRO seems to believe that rights change over time -do they? Locke would argue that rights exist, have always existed, and will always exist -the only question of discussion then is wether those rights have been protected by the government in power at present. In the second sub-point, PRO brings up Guantanamo Bay. No nation is perfect, but to cite flaw with the decision makers presently in power does not mean that the system is flawed itself. As they say about throwing the baby out with the bath water...
The Bill of Rights, at the time of the ratification of the constitution, was included to place specific limitations on what the government (and at that time specifically the federal government) can do to people. It was designed to and effectively has over the trajectory of our nation's history, protect the essential liberties of the people. Anti-Federalists passionately feared what impact would be felt by allowing the government to operate without restraint, and thusly imposed limitations to prevent governmental abuse of power. In that regard, the BOR was necessary at the time of its adoption and continues to be necessary to this day.

back to you.
Debate Round No. 2
salve

Pro

Thanks, Pro:


1-Is the BOR necessary?


There were three levels in this argument:


1. Are our rights protected by legislature? I put forward this argument in Round Two, and my opponent's response was that "It is from the bill of rights that legislative code is derived" and that thus the Bill of Rights was essential for the laws that protect our rights. On the Pro side, I have two responses to this argument. Firstly, it isn't true that the Bill of Rights is the basis of our legislature-it is from the wills of the people, as it is they that the government attempts to satisfy when it submits legislature. Secondly, even if it were true that the Bill of Rights had been useful when formulating our society's laws, that does not mean that it is necessary any longer now that these laws have already been formulated.

2. Are our rights protected by the international community-Though my opponent refuted the UN's role in protecting human rights, he never responded to my analysis of the treaties and conventions of which the US is a signatory that would mean major consequences if rights were violated. For example, the US is a signatory of the Geneva Convention [1]. If it were to violate the protocols set out in the Convention, it could expect major trade sanctions. My opponent says that the US as 'top dog' of international diplomacy would not face such consequences, but there are two problems with this. First, though the US does still hold great sway in international diplomacy, nations such as China have the trading power to inflict major sanctions on it without any real consequences for themselves. Second, if major rights were to be violated, any nation could potentially suffer through sanctions-my opponent claims China is an exception to this rule, but the reason China has not been under heavy sanctions is that, although its human rights record is still poor, it is nonetheless making valuable progress towards better human rights, something the Chinese government has affirmed their commitment to [2]

3. Are our rights protected by the electoral system-My opponent claimed democracy doesn’t protect rights because people will happily allow their liberty to be taken away for advantages in their security. First, that's simply not the case-Pro's examples are poor ones; in Nazi Germany, it was more due to a prevailing hysteria of social minorities, particularly Jews, and the ongoing societal factors at the time that liberties were taken away, and Franklin Roosevelt's actions were never stopped by the Bill of Rights my opponent is today supporting. In fact, people make decisions based on what they believe to be best for their society-though in some instances, this has led to decreases in civil liberties, in others, we have seen civil liberties increase. Nations that do not have a Bill of Rights have not fallen to tyranny and oppression-for example, Australia has continued to function without a Bill of Rights. Second, even if it were true that the people of the US would vote to remove some of their civil liberties, we have no objection to this-if the security increases that would result are worth the cost of removing some civil liberties, the American people should have the right to do so.



2-Is the BOR Undemocratic

My opponent had several rebuttals to this argument:

1. "The purpose of the constitution and the BOR is to ensure that the people are not deprived to the right of consent by the governed -in that regard it serves to frame the structure of our government and outline the powers to be afforded to all three branches"-my opponent claimed the BOR just protects against tyranny and guarantees democracy. This just factually isn't true-a brief look at the Bill of Rights shows that it protects specific rights such as free speech and gun rights.[3]

2. "People do not "choose" rights, rights are natural and flow from natural law” This misconstrued my argument. I stated not that people choose their rights, but that the population as a whole should vote to decide which rights need to be upheld and which can be violated to uphold the rights of others.


3. "Because rights flow from natural law and all people are created equal, what would be "democratic" or just about letting people choose what rights ought to be protected or not be protected?...Numerical supremacy does not grant authority to a majority to deprive a minority of their rights (life, liberty and property) without just cause (for example, like if someone has been convicted of murder, it would be justified to deprive that person of their liberty)"

My opponent's analysis here falls down when he claims removing the BOR would deprive the minority of life, liberty and property. In fact, democracies don't work on the basis of the majority voting down the minority to get whatever they want-people make rational choices that take into account the ethical implications of their actions when they vote. Examples of this would be actions like deciding to grant women the right to vote when only men were voting at the time. If my opponent were right and democracies worked on the basis of trampling powerless minorities, this would have been rejected. In fact, people made rational, ethical decisions to allow women equal rights [4].



3-Effect on Human Rights

In Round Two, I brought forward analysis on how the Bill of Rights promotes frozen rights and causes new reforms to take more time. My opponent responded to this by claiming that "Rights do not evolve over time...They are Life, Liberty and Property (or as Jefferson would describe property, "the pursuit of happiness"). Reforms, then, are unnecessary because rights are static." The very crux of this argument, though, rested upon the Bill of Rights as a vague statement defending 'Life, Liberty and Property'. This is far from being true-as I have already shown, the Bill of Rights has many specific rules on legislation governing rights like freedom of speech and gun rights [1].

These rights are, I propose, not at all absolute. I will defend this statement on two levels.

Firstly, in a broad sense, our human rights are subjective constructs that are liable to change over time as our societies change. Consider, for instance, black rights-these have changed greatly over the last few hundreds of years, from a state in which Black Americans were treated as animals to a (for the most part) egalitarian treatment in our modern society.

Secondly, and more importantly, in a more specific way, certain rights can only be safeguarded depending on the circumstances that surround them. Societies can only protect rights if they have a certain set of circumstances-if these were to change, it would be entirely reasonable for our rights to do so as well. To make this clear, I'll give examples of how rights put forward in the Bill of Rights should not be respected in different circumstances. Consider, for instance, the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech. However, in a time of war, it may be necessary to place certain restrictions on some types of speech-or it may be argued that we should place restrictions on hate speech, something already done in many other nations but ruled unconstitutional in the US because the people are overruled by the BOR. [3] Another example would be the Second Amendment, protecting gun rights [3]-in a society in which the blackmarket gun trade could eventually be wiped out, why should we not then consider banning guns outright? On the Pro side, we believe the people should choose which rights should be restricted and which be protected, because they know their own circumstances best and will inevitably make better decisions than the frozen rights promoted by the BOR.

Good luck.

[1] http://www.cfr.org...

[2]http://www.cfr.org...

[3] http://www.archives.gov...

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...'s_suffrage_in_the_United_States

GMDebater

Con

due to personal reasons, I cannot continue thisbdebate. I wish to debate this topic soon when my mind isn't in a million places. I would like to shake hands with my opponent and congratulate you.
Debate Round No. 3
salve

Pro

Oh well, Con-thanks for the debate anyway, maybe we'll be able to finish it off some other time.

Anyway, please vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by System113 6 years ago
System113
Judiciary interpretation is a terrible infringement on human right. The 9th and 10th amendment might as well not exist and the rest are taken away under the cry of necessity and security.
Posted by YYW 6 years ago
YYW
How disappointing...
Posted by Cobo 6 years ago
Cobo
honestly Pro Won just becuase of forfiet.
His arguement was extremely weak.
I don't have the time to write out the many problems but one main thing
FALSE DILEMMAS
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
salveGMDebaterTied
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.
Vote Placed by Cobo 6 years ago
Cobo
salveGMDebaterTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfiet
Vote Placed by Double_R 6 years ago
Double_R
salveGMDebaterTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: When Con says to vote Pro, who am I to argue?