The Future of the Bill of Rights
Can this top-ten list be saved?


LOPEZ: Why would you quote Ayn Rand?

MINITER: I noted, among other things, that she said, “Remember also that the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” This isn’t said enough. We are a nation of rights, a constitutional republic in which the people demanded a bill of rights as a condition for ratifying the U.S. Constitution. But during our two-plus century long quest for equality, our special interests, and our struggle for minority rights, has caused us to forget that the smallest minority is the individual.

LOPEZ: What’s the Tea Party’s relationship to the Bill of Rights?

MINITER: The Tea Party, to a large degree, is a counter-reaction to our runaway federal government. The Tenth Amendment was designed to prevent the federal government from growing into a bloated, liberty-devouring monster. But today the Tenth Amendment’s restriction on the federal government has been almost completely routed. What I think the Tea Party movement is accomplishing, first and foremost, is re-establishing the basic idea that the federal government is restricted to its enumerated powers as outlined in the Constitution.

LOPEZ: Does it need to get more worked up about some of it? The Fourth Amendment, maybe?

MINITER: Yes. The Left howled about the PATRIOT Act when Pres. George W. Bush was in office, but they now say that the Fourth Amendment’s protection of our “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” doesn’t cover cellphones, computers, digitized documents, and websites. Just because our “papers” appear on a screen shouldn’t mean the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect them from warrantless searches. And just because we move about in public shouldn’t mean the government can use a new technology to track us without a warrant. Yet the Obama administration, for example, will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall that law enforcement should be able to affix a GPS device to someone’s vehicle to track their every move without the benefit of a warrant. I think the reason the Tea Party hasn’t gotten really angry about the deterioration of the Fourth Amendment is because the government has done a good job clouding out the truth about this basic constitutional restriction. When people read my book, however, I think they’ll get it and demand their Fourth Amendment back.

LOPEZ: How would you undo the “big, fat” privacy-right “lie”?

MINITER: This is easy. All people have to do is acknowledge that while it’s true that today our papers are more often digital (something that was unfathomable in 1776), this doesn’t end their constitutional protections; after all, no one argues the First Amendment protection of free speech ends when our voices go over the Internet or on television.

LOPEZ: Why is Kelo so important?

MINITER: Private property is the basis of a free society. When the government can nail an eviction notice to your door (they did this to Susette Kelo) to tell you to get off of your property so they can give your land to Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, because Pfizer will pay more taxes, then we’ve lost the basis for our freedom. That the Supreme Court went along with this theft, as they did in Kelo v. New London (2005) is especially horrendous. The Fifth Amendment says property can only be taken for a “public use,” but the court decided the word “use” can be construed to mean “purpose,” and ruled that more tax revenue is a just purpose. When researching this portion of the book I went to New London, Conn., and saw the place where Kelo’s little, pink house once stood. It’s now an empty lot. Pfizer never even built there.