Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Why Being An Article 4 Free Inhabitant Is Bullshit

* riiiiiiiiiing *  Okay, class.  Eyes up front.  Today's lesson -- Constitutional law.

To some degree, we are all objectivists, believe that, because we CAN do something, we SHOULD be allowed to do it.  Not everyone turns into Howard Roark, however, most people just use it in measured degrees.  Maybe it's drinking.  Maybe it's sex.  Maybe it's a life calling.  Whatever it is, we are aware of limitations but seek to circumvent them anyway.  On average, however, most people doing their own thing do so in defiance of some sort of law, sticking it to the man.  As a result, people love it when they think they have found some loophole that enables them to either disregard the law or hold themselves as superior to the entire governent and society around them.  Preferably both.

So you have people who read a tiny part of a law and immediately sieze on it with absolution, disregarding context or even the rest of the passage.  The Right To Bear Arms is a good example of this -- the 2nd Amendment specifically mentions the right to keep and bear arms as part of a "well-regulated" militia.  This mean guns were meant to be subject to laws and consequences.  But the 2nd Amendment absolutists will ignore this pesky little piece of writing in favor of saying they have the right to anything from handguns to an amphibious assault vehicle.  Because they focus on a sentence they can spin and make it seem like they have more than they actually have.

And now, a new twist.  At least, with 2nd Amendment absolutists, the entire concern is possession of something.  Because of the "well-regulated" part, this can allow more or fewer privileges depending.  And that's a good thing -- show you are responsible and won't interfere with other people's liberty, and you can do what you want.  But there's a new growing movement that isn't about extending liberties stated in the Constitution.  It's basically about disregarding the Constitution and the rights and responsibilities it requires.

So there's a video of a traffic stop.  The driver is being arrested for driving without a license.  The woman is asserting that, as an "Article 4 free inhabitant," he does not need to have a license and the detention is a violation of their civil rights.  The idea is that only the federal goverment has the right to make laws regulating the people, states do not.  The video was forwarded to me by a bunch of online buddies with the basic question, " this real?"  I am not a lawyer, but I can get by, as my experiences with fan projects can attest.  However, this was completely new to me.


Where exactly does this come from?  Well, it comes from the Articles Of Confederation, the governing document of the United States in those few years before the Constitution was rattitifed.  While the Constitution is the LAW OF THE LAND, the Articles Of Confederation were never repealed or nullified.  So, in effect, there are TWO governing documents holding sway over the United States, not one.

The "free inhabitant" stuff comes from the Articles Of Confederation, Article 4, Section 2, Clause 1.  It reads (emphasis mine), "The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different states in this union, the free inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states; and the people of each state shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other state, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restriction shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any state, to any other state, of which the Owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any state, on the property of the united states, or either of them."  So you can see why this is so appealing to the antidisestablishmentarian crowd.

Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream.  Let's start at the top.  People believe that the Articles Of Confederation trump the Constitution.  After all, it was there first, and was never formally repealed.  Well, there's a reason for that -- it doesn't have to be.  At the risk of oversimplifying, the Constitution is basically Extended Rules Articles Of Confederation.  Anything that is NOT covered by the Constitution, the Articles stand.  But if there is a conflict between what the Constitution says and what the Articles say, the Constitution wins.  Here's a shock -- people have already tried this gambit, and it came to a head in 1869 with the case of Texas v. White.  The Supreme Court noted that the Articles stated a "Perpetual Union" while the Constitution stated a "More perfect Union."  The decision was that the perpetuity of the Union still exists, but as the Constitution's Union is more perfect, it holds sway over the Articles, not the other way around.

Now, I can hear some people who think this is a fine time to be had at the expense of The Establishment saying, "But, Peter, there might be something to this Privileges And Immunities business.  Sandra Day O'Connor even said as much when the Supreme Court heard Zobel v Williams in 1982.  Laws do change with the times, you know."  But even if I allow this point, it still doesn't save the whole Free Inhabitant gambit from falling apart.  Because what freedoms it protects are not the ones people think it does.

Article 4 Section 2 Clause 1 is pretty much the same thing as Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states, "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."  Basically, a right granted in one state, such as marriage, has to be recognized by all states, even if they don't allow such things themselves.  In other words, it must treat free inhabitants from another state the same way it treats free inhabitants in its own state.  The state can make laws regulating its citizens, but it cannot make one set of laws for state citizens and different laws for non-state citizens.  No requiring visas to visit from another state, no blocking commerce.  And the states have the right to govern what goes on within their own borders -- just because another state has, say, a different weight restriction on highways doesn't mean it supercedes their own.

And this is where the woman's argument hits the grass.  It states "subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively."  Long story short -- if the state requires people to have a driver's license to operate a vehicle, then they must require people from outside the state to have a license.  Therefore, this officer WAS enforcing the law and the driver was in voilation of it.  The Article concerns open borders.  You fail, but thanks for trying.

So if you're thinking of trying this, don't bother.  Many others have tried, all have failed.  You'll be laughed out of court if you do.  Class dismissed.

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