The 9th Amendment to the Constitution An opportunity like never before Print E-mail
( 8 Votes )
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 11 August 2011 00:00

In Belize, we are fortunate to be at an early and relatively unspoiled stage of our development, and can learn from the virtual global laboratory of the last half-century of change; we can now develop a form of democracy and an economic model that best suits us.  We can now design our country’s political and development agenda in a way that can make the best use of our unique advantages; namely our small population, our abundant and accessible natural resources, and the advantageous geopolitical niche in which we find ourselves.

The principles of democracy and freedom in the late 20th Century sponsored a global evolution into a new neo-liberal era with the goal being the enlightenment, empowerment and enrichment for all.  Western ideology won a seemingly overwhelming victory over socialism with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Asian economic powerhouses, but a new hybrid model of guided democracy seems to be taking the lead, as evidenced by the obvious shift of Western-style economic and political power to the East.  Leading this roller coaster ride are several economic and political global winners like China, Brazil, Russia and India, and in its wake lies a wide field of Western ideology fed cadavers of what was believed to be the ideal models for national development.

The pundits on the anti 9th Amendment side of the debate seem to believe that the secret to sustainable national development lies in the principle of ultimate and unfettered freedom for all.   These same pundits seem to believe that the People’s Will, as enacted by the representatives elected by the majority, and embodied in our Constitution, should not be absolute, but should be kept in check by the Courts.  That is to say, that a benevolent, democratically elected government’s actions to develop a supreme framework for national development, using the principle of good governance should not be allowed.  That the will of a Court, possibly a single Judge, possibly a foreign Judge in a foreign country could invalidate the decisions by the greater good, for the greater good, in favor of an individual plaintiff, represented by a talented advocate.

If we look back at where unbridled freedom has brought the Western democracies over the last three decades, we may want to rethink and refine this principle.  Unchecked freedom by Wall Street to create artificial wealth in the imaginations of fundamentally free-to-borrow-despite-the-risk Americans has led today from a once globally envied US economy to one that is teetering on the edge of sovereign default at the hands of a non-free China.  Bringing that example home; if the anti 9th Amendment lobby have their way, a new freedom will emerge for individual challenge of the ultimate Will of the People in the courts, using legal arguments instead of the principles of greater good as debated in the National Assembly, the People’s Forum.  It is without a doubt that the challenger with the deepest pockets and the smartest lawyers will often get their way; chalk one up for unbridled freedom of the Ashcroft/Wall Street ideology.  We must always remember that with excessive individual freedoms come individual excesses and abuse; and any principle of governance must balance freedoms against the national good, as expressed by the Will of the People, not the decisions of the court.

The 9th Amendment gives an intelligent, benevolent, popular, democratically elected government, with a 2/3 or ¾ majority, the power to design an economic/political model that is relevant to our times, and that can propel our country into a successful era of sustainable growth.  Now one can argue that it is rare that an elected government may have all the traits just described.  It can also be argued that once we elect a government, a submission of our will to their best judgment could be a dangerous move.  History, however, has proven otherwise. 

The more successful small nation economies today all stem from a system whereby the leaders were given the leverage to make decisions that may have seemed on the surface to be anti-freedom, but in the long run have proven themselves through positive results of sustainable and balanced economies with equal share of wealth for all.  Singapore is an excellent example of this.  Today’s Singapore is a shining example of a productive, clean, disciplined, prosperous democracy, where the citizens today value their national freedom and quality of life over individual abuses.  This example is repeated in countries like Chile, Botswana, Taiwan, and even next-door in neighboring Mexico, where an unparalleled era of citizen prosperity and productivity is clearly evident, under a working balance between authority and citizen rights for the greater good.

We often lament about the good old days of Belize; the more innocent days of clean and safe streets and polite neighbors.  There is no reason why anyone should be poor, uneducated or hungry, but the reality is that the unfettered freedom that we so value has allowed the type of corruption that has led to the deterioration of our society.  At the top level, our political and business leaders are free to take advantage of public assets and public funds for their own personal benefit and that of their friends.  The same wealthy class is free from taxes either because of loopholes, connections or just pure corruption, while the middle class bears the brunt of the tax burden. 

At the lower level, our society is free to litter, free to abuse their families, free to deny their children good parenting and mandatory education, and free to associate openly with known criminal gangs.  Why is it that the various anti-Amendment pundits don’t cry for harsher laws and penalties to curb the abuses that our freedoms have allowed us, and that have led to the societal decay we see today? No doubt these same pundits, in the name of personal freedom, will demand that the necessary legislative changes to mend society must be tested by the courts, even if decreed by our elected leaders, in an act of parental benevolence.
On this, the eve of our 30th Anniversary of our independence, the 9th Amendment of the Constitution of Belize is a groundbreaking opportunity for us to finally do it right.  The opportunity that has presented itself under a popular and justified cause of public ownership of public utilities, versus corrupt accommodation agreements creating pseudo-monopolies, extends beyond this one positive outcome.  So many ills plague us today, and so many habits that exist in the guise of personal freedom need to be changed. Despite the public cry for tougher measures to curb gang violence, for example, the Preventative Detention Legislation, a tough alternative for a swift treatment of the crime problem suffered a second stillbirth in the name of personal freedom.  While I am in no way a proponent of a police state, I will say that as a law abiding citizen, I have no fear of being detained, and would willingly trade that risk for the chance that our streets can be cleaned up of the scum that rule with the constant exchange of unlicensed gunfire.

Today the debate rages on as the anti 9th Amendment lawyers argue for their hefty fees from well-funded paymasters.  The selfish quest to be right not by virtue of the truth, but by virtue of being the best, most well-paid advocate, trumps the need for our society to rally behind an initiative that can change our direction.  The ideologies that we were taught in school; the denigration of strong handed leadership and socialism, the praise of un-checked freedom and capitalism, are proving to be less than accurate as we witness the slow financial and political collapse of the West right before our very eyes.  This paradigm shift in the geopolitical center opens the door for Belize to find a comfortable middle between the ideologies of the West and the more practical, socially sensitive and sustainable models that have endured.

The conversation needs to change, and the experts on constitutional law must first decide where they want our beloved country to be in the next 10 years and we must all agree on a way forward, and quickly.  Any agreement, however, must include a clear definition that the ultimate decision lies in the Will of the People, executed by the representatives that have been duly elected and empowered with the requisite majority to carry out that Will, and this is clearly reaffirmed in the 9th Amendment.