The Cato Institute wishes readers a Happy Bill of Rights Day!
Bill of Rights Day is an official holiday signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights.
Is today really such a happy day though? The Bill of Rights was ratified in order to prevent government from over stepping its boundaries determined by the limited nature of government prescribed in the Constitution. In fact, several states would not ratify the Constitution without it; fearing government power might grow too strong thanks to the efforts of the Anti-federalists who opposed a strong central government and campaigned against ratification of the Constitution in favor of a confederation of largely independent states. After ratification they formed a political party to support states’ rights. They feared that a strong central government would be disconnected from the people it represents and tax too heavily and violate freedoms of the people because citizens would not be able to check the central government’s power.
Unfortunately it seems that even with the adoption of the Bill of Rights the fears of the Anti-federalists have been realized, especially with respect to eminent domain. Even with the Fifth Amendment restricting government’s taking of private property to public uses citizens all over the nation have found themselves in a battle to keep their property from being taken by government and given to someone else. Why? It’s just as the Anti-federalists feared, a strong central government will result in violations of individuals’ rights. Sadly, the most natural of rights, the right to property, is the right that has been most trampled on as a result of the judicial branch of the federal government’s disconnection with the people.