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The right to mobility: How the left is violating our fundamental liberty by refusing our right to drill for oil

By Timothy Birdnow
web posted July 14, 2008

When the Bill of Rights was introduced to the U.S. Constitution, an argument erupted over the need for amendments specifically enumerating the rights of Americans.  The Constitution states quite plainly that any powers not expressly granted to the United States government are reserved to the States and the People.  In short, there should have been no need to enumerate rights; they were granted not by men but by God, after all, and the Constitution made it plain that America's central government was to be seriously circumscribed. 

But many feared the power of this new, stronger union and the ''elastic clause'' (Article I, Sec. VIII) granting the power to do what was ''necessary and proper'' for the welfare of that union, and so the first ten amendments were introduced to guarantee the freedom of the citizenry.  One freedom that never made it into the Constitution was so basic, it probably never occurred to the Founders that there was a need for a formal inclusion; the right to mobility.

Just as the right to own property was not included because it was seen as self-evident, the right to move about is one of the roots of liberty, something absolutely unabridgeable in a free society and likewise self-evident.  A number of the individual States incorporated this fundamental right into their constitutions, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled early on in Corfield v. Coryell (1823) and in a series of subsequent rulings (Paul v. Virginia, Ward v. Maryland, U.S. v Harris, etc.) the right to travel was a fundamental thing, although it was not specifically within the jurisdiction of the United States government; after all, those rights were reserved to the States and the People.

Then we must consider this:

"Personal liberty largely consists of the Right to locomotion to go where and when one pleases only so far restrained as the Rights of others may make it necessary for the welfare of all other Citizens. The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horsedrawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but the common Right which he has under his Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under this Constitutional guarantee one may, therefore, under normal conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor disturbing another's Rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe conduct." - American Jurisprudence 1st, Constitutional Law, Section 329, p. 1135.

In fact, mobility rights have become a part of international law, with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights declaring that:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

So even liberals should appreciate the importance of freedom of mobility; the U.N. declared it a fundamental right! It is not just about building roads and bridges, either; it means that the government of the United States has a duty to encourage the free movement of her citizenry by whatever manner those citizens see fit.

This freedom we take for granted has a long pedigree, going back to Persian King Cyrus the Great's permission of his newly conquered subjects to move about his empire freely (and thus allowing the Israelites to return to their homeland).  The Magna Carta had this to say about the right to travel:

''It shall be lawful to any person, for the future, to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us, unless it be in time of war, for some short space, for the common good of the kingdom: excepting prisoners and outlaws, according to the laws of the land, and of the people of the nation at war against us, and Merchants who shall be treated as it is said above.''

This fundamental right of movement is, as is true of all rights, something that does not impose any burden on others, but does require governments to cooperate in it's free exercise. Heavy restrictions on travel, or burdensome regulations on the means of travel, act to deny this fundamental liberty.  After all, there is a reason the government builds roads and bridges, and enforces traffic laws; without these things the public would find mobility difficult, and their right to move about restricted.  Liberals are always complaining about infrastructure, so they should understand the necessity of this fundamental right; why spend money on building thoroughfares if people can't afford to use them?

Of course, commerce would be impossible without the right to mobility, and we would never have had a Union without recognition of this right to move about.  America would never have been anything more than a series of isolated villages without the means to travel, and there would have been no economy to speak of.  We would never have had a westward expansion, our forefathers would never have conquered a continent, had it been believed (as other peoples have in the past) that travel should be restricted by government. Shipping meant trade, and the American Revolution was largely fought over British interdiction of free shipping of goods.  Road building made it possible for Americans to travel west, and California would be a backwater had it not had good harbors for ships, railroads, and later Route 66. The commerce so necessary to our lives also funds our government through the taxes we pay, and so that government is obligated to maintain the easy flow of people, goods, and services to justify taking that money. The lives we enjoy are predicated on the ability to travel as we see fit. And, of course, one of the principle duties enumerated in the Constitution of the United States is to foster and regulate interstate commerce; something that requires the government do everything in its power to make mobility easier.

Our ability to move about is dependent in modern times on oil. With affordable fuel we have the means to exercise that basic right. Without it we are being oppressed by a government that is withholding a fundamental liberty.

We have much of the oil we need here in America, buried under publicly owned land (i.e. the People's land), but environmental restrictions have made it impossible to obtain and refine that resource for our use.  We have ''designer fuels'', mandates requiring the use of ''renewable resources'' that do not work, limits on the use of coal, on nuclear power, etc. forcing us to waste oil to generate electricity.  In this way U.S. government policy has abridged the right of the people to mobility by driving the price of fuel beyond the reach of many. (Granted, bad monetary policy and international markets have helped to drive this price up, though not commodities speculators as is often alleged.)  This is an issue of human rights, and should be recognized as such.

That is why I believe we have gone off-track in our arguments for more energy exploration; we are approaching the matter from an economic and political viewpoint, rather than one of basic rights.  This argument should be framed as the right to mobility versus the regulatory burden of an overweight government determined to use the many laws on the books to restrict our freedom to travel. 

One of the first things tyrants do when they take power is restrict the right to travel. The Roman Emperor Diocletian restricted the right of the peasantry to move off their tenant farms, laying the groundwork for medieval serfdom.  The Russian Tsars did likewise at a later date.  The Bolsheviks always required special passes for travel, and the fascist state in modern Russia is now doing likewise.  Ditto Castro. Control of the movement of people means control of the individual.

It should be pointed out that those who are more mobile generally defeat those who are sedentary in warfare.  It has been so since the taming of the horse and demonstrated repeatedly in every war. Ask those who fought the Mongols, the Spaniards, Napoleon, the British Navy, Rommel, or the U.S. mechanized army with fast tanks and aircraft.

In fact the ability to move fast is on a par with the ownership of guns when it comes to defending liberties. In the Revolutionary War, Washington's ability to outrun the British army eventually won the day. British General Burgoyne and the other commanders could never catch him!  Santa Ana could never catch Sam Houston in Texas, for that matter, but Houston's men caught him at San Jacinto; he was too slow. A speedy public makes tyranny difficult.

Which is precisely why liberals hate the automobile; it grants a level of independence impossible to those in less developed nations.  Liberal thought is all about control; they seek to fundamentally change human nature, and to do that they must have a high level of control over the individual. Theirs' is a crusade to change beliefs and minds, and one cannot change what one cannot catch. The mobility of Americans -- both physical via autos and intellectual via the internet and other uncontrolled media makes implementing liberal policies impossible. The New Man cannot emerge as long as the Old Man can out-run him! This ability to move about means chaos to many on the Left, and that cannot be allowed.

The liberals have tried to control our mobility, through public transportation, urban renewal projects, restrictions on driver's licenses and vehicle ownership, and other  methods, but the American people love their cars, and demand cheap fuel to operate them, spoiling their plans. Now, however, environmental restrictions and the religion of Global Warming have given the Left a new tool to restrict that right to travel.  Taxation, restrictions on energy exploration, restrictions on refining capacity, regulations on emissions, other pollution regulations, etc. have been imposed to stop Americans from whizzing around where they will, ruining the grand design of liberal statists.

So, we have an energy crisis largely imposed by the government.  If freedom of mobility is a basic human right, granted in our Constitution, seen by the Founding Fathers as being granted by a beneficent God to believer and non-believer alike, then our governmental policies can best be summed up as tyrannical.  They must be changed!  We should be using the language of the Civil Rights era when discussing this. Schumer, Reid, Pelosi, et. al are the bigots -- and elitists -- blocking the doorway to every American's mobility. The liberals want to keep us on their plantation, dependent on them for the things we need rather than letting us go out and get things for ourselves.  And, oh yes!  Women and minorities are hardest hit, since they have to pay the highest proportion of their incomes to transportation costs.

The U.S. government is not duty bound to drill for oil, but it has a sacred obligation to get out of the way of those who want to do it for us.  The right to mobility should not be infringed! ESR

Special thanks to writer Jack Kemp (not the politician) for helping to pull this together.

This is Timothy Birdnow's first contribution to Enter Stage Right.






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