Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Monday, May 07, 2012

Turning (Imperial) Japanese

One of the chief reforms Douglas MacArthur brought about in postwar Japan was a new constitution, replacing the 1889 constitution, drafted during the Meiji era. One of its significant faults is how it handles the issue of civil rights, enumerated in Chapter II: Rights and Duties of Subjects. (That word "subjects" should be your first clue about the nature of this constitution.) Every one of the enumerated "rights" follows this structure: subjects have a right to X, unless the government rules otherwise. Here is that section in its entirety:
Article 18. The conditions necessary for being a Japanese subject shall be determined by law.
Article 19. Japanese subjects may, according to qualifications determined in laws or ordinances, be appointed to civil or military or any other public offices equally.
Article 20. Japanese subjects are amenable to service in the Army or Navy, according to the provisions of law.
Article 21. Japanese subjects are amenable to the duty of paying taxes, according to the provisions of law.
Article 22. Japanese subjects shall have the liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits of the law.
Article 23. No Japanese subject shall be arrested, detained, tried or punished, unless according to law.
Article 24. No Japanese subject shall be deprived of his right of being tried by the judges determined by law.
Article 25. Except in the cases provided for in the law, the house of no Japanese subject shall be entered or searched without his consent.
Article 26. Except in the cases mentioned in the law, the secrecy of the letters of every Japanese subject shall remain inviolate.
Article 27. The right of property of every Japanese subject shall remain inviolate. (2) Measures necessary to be taken for the public benefit shall be any provided for by law.
Article 28. Japanese subjects shall, within limits not prejudicial to peace and order, and not antagonistic to their duties as subjects, enjoy freedom of religious belief.
Article 29. Japanese subjects shall, within the limits of law, enjoy the liberty of speech, writing, publication, public meetings and associations.
Article 30. Japanese subjects may present petitions, by observing the proper forms of respect, and by complying with the rules specially provided for the same.
Article 31. The provisions contained in the present Chapter shall not affect the exercises of the powers appertaining to the Emperor, in times of war or in cases of a national emergency.
Article 32. Each and every one of the provisions contained in the preceding Articles of the present Chapter, that are not in conflict with the laws or the rules and discipline of the Army and Navy, shall apply to the officers and men of the Army and of the Navy.
Now, a Massachusetts representative wants to follow this lead (hat tip: VC): Now comes Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) with a comparable contribution to another debate, the one concerning government regulation of political speech. Joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 26 other Democrats and one Republican, he proposes a constitutional amendment to radically contract First Amendment protections. His purpose is to vastly expand government’s power — i.e., the power of incumbent legislators — to write laws regulating, rationing or even proscribing speech in elections that determine the composition of the legislature and the rest of the government. McGovern’s proposal vindicates those who say that most campaign-finance “reforms” are incompatible with the First Amendment. Douglas MacArthur turns in his grave.

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