Collective Punishment

I recently got into a debate over at another web site over some issue or another (I don’t recall if it was ObamaCare or gay marriage; I think the latter, but I’m not sure) and I brought up the 10th Amendment, and how that says rights not explicitly granted to the federal government are reserved for the states or the people. This prompted an argument that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it: “state’s rights” was the battle cry of the Confederacy and the anti-civil-rights crowds.


There was something that bugged the hell out of me about that argument, but I couldn’t quite get my head around it. But today, on a rather lengthy road trip, it finally clicked in my head.


“Because some people have misused this, it must be denied to everyone.”


It’s the core behind a lot of arguments, and they’re ones I don’t like.


“We have to control everyone’s access to guns because some people have abused them.”

“We have to make certain everyone wears seat belts because some people refuse to wear them.”


“We have to control people’s access to cold medicine because some people misuse them.”


“We have to control people’s choice of light bulbs because some people don’t like the ‘right’ choice.”


“We have to force auto makers to constantly raise the average fuel economy to nigh-impossible levels because some people like gas guzzlers.”


“We have to restrict what people say because some people abuse their 1st Amendment rights with ‘hate speech.'”


And as more and more examples bounced around my head, two came back from memory:


“Because some of you have been using your bathroom privileges to wander around the school, everyone now has to sign in and out to go to the bathroom, and there will only be one bathroom pass.”


“Because some of you didn’t bring your dishes back from your room, no one is allowed to eat anywhere but in the kitchen.”


You know what? It sucked then, and it sucked now. It’s collectively punishing all for the abuses of a few. And unlike the school and home examples, there’s not even a hint of reasonable expectation that the group can police itself. Hell, I wasn’t even born during the height of the Civil Rights struggle, let alone the Civil War — but because of those abuses, I’m being denied a fundamental Constitutional right.


It irritates the hell out of me on a variety of levels, but probably the most aggravating is that there is a way to change the Constitution. If folks want to get rid of the 10th Amendment and States’ Rights, then let them propose repealing that Amendment or writing a new one. Simply proclaiming that those don’t matter because some people did bad things while citing them is utter bunk.



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