Sweet Land of Liberty? The Supreme Court and Individual Rights.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Arnett, Jerome C., Jr.
Pub Date: 12/22/2008
Publication: Name: Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Publisher: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. ISSN: 1543-4826
Issue: Date: Winter, 2008 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 4
Topic: NamedWork: Sweet Land of Liberty? The Supreme Court and Individual Rights (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Holzer, Henry Mark
Accession Number: 190198294
Full Text: Sweet Land of Liberty? The Supreme Court and Individual Rights, by Henry Mark Holzer, 198 pp, hardback, ISBN 0917572-03-3, Costa Mesa, Calif., The Common Sense Press, 1983.

Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism, and with individual rights.

--Ayn Rand

The Supreme Court has always been our most consistent destroyer of individual rights. Henry Holzer draws this shocking conclusion after making a systematic analysis of about 60 major Supreme Court decisions concerning individual rights and the exercise of government power.

In Sweet Land of Liberty? he shows in great detail how and why this has been accomplished. He examines decisions that deal with business, property, contracts, religion, speech, sex, and slavery, and shows that the Court has judged individual actions not against the rights of the individual, but instead by the best interests of the community.

The two-part theme of the book is first, that an altruist-collectivist ethic is at the root of America's political-legal system and has monopolized government institutions from the very beginning. This ethic can only be implemented by force, so it has led to statism, where force has supplanted freedom. Statist power has spiraled out of control at the expense of the individual. Holzer's second theme is that both liberals and conservatives in principle hold the same basic ethical values.

Widespread misunderstanding of the ethical meanings of both altruism and collectivism has had devastating consequences for individual rights and freedom. Altruism is not simply being nice to people. Its ethical meaning is that the general welfare of society is the proper goal of an individual's action, that service to others is the only proper reason to exist, and that self-sacrifice is one's highest moral duty. And collectivism is not simply the coming together of people with common interests. As an ethical principle, it means the individual has no rights, and that his work belongs to the group--to "society," the state, or the nation.

Nearly all societies recognize that one individual should not be allowed to interfere with the life or property of another, but they all believe that the state should be allowed to do so for the "good of society." Holzer believes the single destructive idea ingrained in all cultures today is that the individual of any group, tribe, or nation must place his interests beneath the "needs" of the collective. The self-interest of the individual always is secondary to the interest of the state.

Our Declaration of Independence challenged these ideas by proclaiming that the purpose of government was not to regulate, control, and plunder individuals for the benefit of the collective, but rather was to secure rights to individuals, to ensure that each individual enjoyed personal freedom from the encroachments of others. The Founders gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court was charged with the ultimate authority to protect our individual freedoms.

But in spite of Constitutional guarantees such as the First Amendment, the Contract Clause, and due process, the Court has used altruism and collectivism to create a statist government in America, our current welfare-warfare state.

Here are a few examples:

In return for creating unparalleled prosperity, American business has been shackled and bled by government. The objective is to hurt the individual businessman in order to benefit "society." But whenever government regulates business, the rights of some are always sacrificed.

The Supreme Court has completely undercut the right of private property by deciding that individual property rights can, in fact, be sacrificed to the needs of others. Eminent domain is one example. As Holzer notes, virtually every town, city, or county has enacted and enforced zoning laws to control every aspect of land use, subordinating individual interests to the "needs of society."

Contracts are enforceable private choices. They are a cornerstone of a free society. They are so important they are specifically protected by the Constitution. But, as Holzer shows, the right of private contract is another right that has been sacrificed to the needs of others.

The expansive use of the interstate commerce clause has forced unwanted customers on unwilling, nominally private motels and restaurants in the name of "civil rights."

Apparently the free expression of sexual matter can be suppressed, and some people branded criminals and imprisoned, in order to protect other people from themselves.

Because of conscription (the military draft), in the 20" century alone hundreds of thousands have fallen victim to the altruism-collectivism-statism ethic, from the Argonne Forest to the Vietnam jungles, in Holzer's view.

But the single decision that most starkly reveals the tragic consequences of the Court's altruism and collectivism is the Dred Scott decision, with which the Court justified the practice of human slavery. It took a constitutional amendment to correct this mistake.

Holzer asks, "How does the government have the 'right' to concern itself with the 'decency' of society or the 'quality of life?"' And, "Is it the government's proper function to violate individual rights for the common good?" After all, it is we who created government, and it is government that derives its just powers from our consent. The Constitution documents a delegation of power, not a relinquishment of the people's unalienable rights.

What can be done? Holzer believes the altruist-collectivist ethics must be purged from our political-legal system. Both liberals and conservatives must work together to support all individual rights. We must stop the government's suppression of speech, and end its confiscation of private property and its nullification of private contracts. We must eliminate government's interference with the marketplace. This will allow the economic aspects of capitalism to operate freely, and "the law of supply and demand to supplant political fiat."

Read Sweet Land of Liberty? Then you may join in the daunting task of re-educating 95 percent of our fellow citizens, who are markedly deficient in their understanding of ethics, philosophy, and economics, and who are daily misled by "liberal" news media. Though long out of print, this book is pertinent today because of its comprehensiveness and its unique philosophical approach to explaining many of our current political and economic problems. Copies of the book can still be obtained through amazon.com and other sources.

Since 1983, many additional books have examined the "how" and "why" of this topic, though likely without as clear an explanation of the "why." A recent example, which looks at more recent court decisions, is the 2008 book The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom, by Robert A. Levy of the Cato Institute and William Mellor of the Institute for Justice.

Jerome C. Arnett, Jr. M.D.

Helvetia, W. V.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.