With the dynamic influx of election news reflecting intense American discontent over lockdowns, mandates, and leftist political ideology in schools, a story from Maine about the voters adopting a novel amendment to the Maine Constitution might get overlooked.
But it’s a big deal to the folks in Maine and it reflects an important push against the multifaceted government abuse of property rights that has grown and grown in the US over the past century-plus.
A statewide referendum asked voters if they favored an amendment to the Maine Constitution ‘to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.’ It was an experiment not tried before by any state.
And that question, which became known as Question Three and won on the Maine ballot November 2, is well-written -- to a point.
Any attempt to change a constitution is fraught with danger, because, even though the politicians who swear oaths to abide by them routinely break their promises, a vote to change a constitution actually could WRITE INTO it a provision that facilitates even more political abuse of people’s rights.
And, given how few people nowadays understand the “negative reciprocity” nature of rights, the chance could be high that modern Americans might write into their constitution a “positive right” to the time, efforts, property, or person of another.
Luckily, this was not the case with the “Food Liberty Amendment” in Maine.
Notice in the text of the amendment that there is no comma after the word “produce.” This means that "produce and consume" are part of the same protected action, implying that one has a right to consume the food he or she produces, but not a right to consume the food that another produces.
If there were a comma after the word “produce”, the negative right to be left alone to consume the fruits of one’s own labor would have been mutated into a so-called “positive” right (as in “posited by agents of state control”) TO the food produced by someone else.
This is important, because there is no “positive right TO” anything that someone else owns. A claim of a “positive right” means that someone else is obligated to provide it.
Which means someone else is your slave.
Of course, given the positivist mindset of many Americans today -- evidenced by left-wing multitudes claiming they have “rights to” food, housing, medical care, education, abortion, child care, elderly care, drug rehab services, high-speed internet, heat, water, electricity, and more -- a poorly titled “Right to Food” amendment could have gone the wrong way.
But Mainers showed that they have not embraced positivism here, and, perhaps, it’s because they have seen the innumerable attacks on private property and market exchange that politicians have committed over the last century.
Whether it’s the federal government going after Amish farmers trying to sell raw milk, the Loudon County, VA, Health Department trying to close a tiny farm, the FDA going after Rawsome Foods, in California, or the government trying to shut down a farmer in nearby West Brattleboro, Vermont, it’s possible that many Maine residents saw how politicians and bureaucrats repeatedly have attacked peaceful food producers -- and tried to either close them down outright, or regulate them into closure -- even when those food producers have not victimized anyone.
Prior to the vote, Jessica Piper wrote for the Bangor Daily News that numerous interest groups searching for freedom -- or concerned about possible future attacks on their freedom – united to support the Food Liberty Amendment. Some were people concerned about the possibility that the government might make it hard to use heirloom seeds. Others were hunters, who worried that their traditional practice of hunting for deer, moose, and bear, might be curtailed.
One source of food – that being seafood harvesters/ working off the coast of Maine – appears not to have been part of the alliance, and perhaps that is because the attacks on fishing rights come from the federal government, which, for years, has imposed limits on the number and kinds of seafood local fishermen can catch, and even has forced said fishermen to bring aboard literal “Fish Counters” – bureaucrats who COUNT the fish, and whom the feds force the fishermen to pay, themselves.
As a result, it will be interesting to see if a Maine fisherman someday attempts to bring action against the feds for their unconstitutional usurpation of property rights -- rights that fishermen should be able to establish, protect, and trade, for fishing in the ocean off the Maine coast.
In fact, that inspires a curious reader to go back and check the wording, because, if one looks closely at the amendment, one sees that it protects personal farming, but it lacks any provision protecting the free-market trade of food or seeds, and one wonders why that was not included...
Pointed speculation aside, this is a powerful move that shows observers how assailed private property has been in the US.
And it reminds us that such a state-level amendment is supposed be unnecessary, because, in the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the US Constitution already prohibits these kinds of regulatory takings and restrictions on a state level, and neither the US nor the Maine constitutions “grant” any so-called power to those governments to engage in mobster-like threats against large, medium, or tiny farmers in the first place.
Which offers a troubling final lesson.
This week, we've seen the folks in Maine prepared to insert a clause into their state constitution that WOULD be unnecessary, if politicians abided by their oaths to operate within the bounds of the US and Maine constitutions.
So, in a strange dog-chasing-its-own-tail way, we see that, because politicians have not abided by those constitutions, the voters in Maine just approved an amendment to their state constitution to insure that politicians will not continue… breaking the Maine constitution. This assumes that the politicians will abide by the amended constitution, something for which they already show contempt.
In the 19th century, abolitionist legal scholar and entrepreneur Lysander Spooner noticed this problem, and wrote a trenchant pamphlet about it, entitled, “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” and, in the work, he observed:
But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain—that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it.
He was correct then, and his words are perfectly applicable now.
In writing both the Constitution and the previous US rules that the Constitution-backers usurped, the Articles of Confederation, the founders clung to an insight from Greek philosopher Aristotle, who denoted six kinds of political/state organizations. He saw three forms as "acceptable," because they all operated according to a written set of governmental limits and explicitly stated powers. Those, he said, were Monarchy (a royal operating under a constitution), Aristocracy (landowners running an assembly, which was limited by a constitution), and Polity/Republic (a demos/population voting, but limited to powers outlined in a written constitution). The other three, lacking written limits from a constitution, were despotic, and included a “Tyranny” (one ruler, making up his own rules), an Oligarchy (a small group claiming whatever power they wanted), and a Democracy (a vast group, crushing the rights of the minority, and making up the rules and laws at any time).
Shortly after the Constitution was ratified (and even that caused a lot of dissent among early Americans), the feds and various states began breaking the constitutional rules, and Spooner recognized that.
The problem has grown worse with every passing year, because, as Spooner noted, the written rules don’t matter to avaricious and acquisitive politicians and their vast array of bureaucrats.
This move by Mainers is a significant reflection of that phenomenon, and a reminder that the rules are there, easily read, and each of us can call the politicians and bureaucrats to task for swearing they’ll abide by them, then attacking our rights, regardless of what the rules of government actually say.