Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's about Civilian Control of the military, no matter how much you want to pretend it isn't

In this case, the Second Amendment analogue comes from Virginia.

Delegate Mark Cole has proposed to amend the Virginia Constitution, to explain that the right to keep and bear arms is an "individual right", not connected with militia service. This would align with the new SCOTUS decision in Heller, where they argued that the first part of the 2nd amendment was not connected to the second part. HOWEVER, the language of the Virginia Constitution on this subject is much more difficult to dismiss:

Article I. Bill of Rights
Section 13. Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power
That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
Look carefully and you will see the word "therefore" between the militia reference and the right to keep and bear arms. Not sure how they can be separated when they are joined by a very explicit "therefore". In addition, the explanation would reference "self defense", "hunting" and "any lawful purpose" - all things that are not mentioned, or even hinted at, in the VA Constitution. Just look at the title and tell me that the writers were thinking of individual self defense, etc.

If Delegate Cole wants to explain Section 13, he could start by explaining why we have totally ignored the phrase: "that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty"!!!!!

The problem is that the issue of civilian control over the military is a major topic in democratic societies, with it having a healthy debate during the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries (and even now).  People who supported militias believed that they would not be turned into standing armies; however, history has shown that militias usually become an army if there is a long term conflict (e.g., English Civil War and American War for Independence).

As I have said before, the militia system was moribund by the time of the American War for Independence as Adam Smith pointed out in his Wealth of Nations:
A militia, however, in whatever manner it may be either disciplined or exercised, must always be much inferior to a well-disciplined and well-exercised standing army.
It is poor policy to take an obsolete section of the US Constitution which was intended to deal with matters of the common defense and turn it to the detriment of promoting the general welfare.

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