“Personal rights . . . are a species of rights of the most sacred kind. [Anyone who would use his wealth] or presume upon the influence it would give him, to dispossess or rob another of his property or rights, uses that pecuniary property as he would use fire-arms, and merits to have it taken from him.” – Thomas Paine, 1795
Using money and its influence is now “business as usual” for most of our United States and State and local governments. With sufficient wealth, you can buy low taxes and new assessments, accept stolen property, dispossess whole neighborhoods of their homes and small businesses, force code changes and escape regulations, compel your competitors out of business, and a great number of other abuses.
You can also purchase the right of Personhood for your corporation, creating a straw man cum scape goat for your personal and corporate evils. It is very little wealth and a great deal of influence used to bury the rights of individuals with the shovel of willing government.
Outside of purely illegal miscarriages of absent justice without challenges, almost all of these pecuniary “rights” can be attributed to the 14th Amendment. (Usually in conjunction with the commerce clause, but 500 words is the goal for article length.) After one of the judicial horrors (Citizens United vs FEC, a case worthy of its own article and special attention for its convoluted and stupid reasoning at another time) Justice John Paul Stevens was so incensed by the 5-4 decision that he read part of his dissent from the bench to reprimand his fellow Justices.
Stevens declared from the bench that the inexcusable majority opinion in this case “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” Our nation and government, he stated, “cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.“
Bought and sold indeed! The most distressing and disgusting aspect of this case, though, has little to do with the decision itself. It was rejected by Stevens, but his dissent was joined only by Breyer, Ginsberg, and Sotomayor — the three most liberal partisans on the court and the most eager to kill the case. Its support came from the Conservatives, though the case has the most un-conservative nonsense written into it. It includes bench legislation, insufferable stupidity, ignorance of their own established law, and as much irrational and circular logic as any case in the history of the Court.
It also covered two sets of facts: one set offered in Court, the second argued only by the Justices in their decision (wrongly.) It was such a bad decision that Chief Justice Roberts felt obliged to write a second opinion to defend the majority opinion and explain the bad reasoning.
Nobody, but nobody, argued for legitimate reasons, and the express constitutional justifications were utterly and inexcusably ignored in favor of further partisan perversion of our sacred document by a thoroughly corrupt court.
We have since lost Stevens, a great and honest man, impartial Juror, and perhaps the last truly fair and decent Justice who will ever serve on that now disgusting body of cheap legal opinion. Much worse, however, is that his replacement was the partisan who argued badly for the losing side: Elena Kagan.