By Richard Tren, TES Contributor
A friend of mine likes to describe Washington, DC as the “parasite on the Potomac.” The city is home to countless bureaucrats, lobbyists, lawyers, and non-profit workers who, in some way or another, make a living off the federal government and far too often at taxpayers’ expense. The city is also overwhelmingly Democratic – in 2016 over 90 percent of the District voted for Hillary Clinton. Anyone living in DC knows that they are living in one of the most progressive places in the United States, but lately the “wokeness” is getting a little out of hand.
Adams Morgan is a fun part of North West DC. It is not only home to attractive row homes and stately condo buildings, but is also packed with bars, restaurants, and night clubs. Anyone wanting to find a bite to eat will find American diners alongside fine French restaurants and near Peruvian, Ethiopian, Japanese, or Korean eateries. And so, it is probably appropriate that the DC government placed banners on lampposts with images of food, people, and music alongside phrases such as “Unity in Diversity” and “Music is our Language.”
But Adams Morgan is also sporting a banner with the image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What, I wondered did Justice Ginsburg, or RBG as she is popularly known, have to do with Adams Morgan? After all the Justice, who is a committed Leftist appointed by President Clinton, lives in the Watergate building, miles away from hip Adams Morgan. But my curiosity turned to utter bafflement when I saw the phrase accompanying her image: “Live Your Truth.”
Perhaps the creators of this banner meant to channel William Shakespeare with “to thine own self be true.” Yet I suspect in this age of post-modern wokeness, the DC authorities were more interested in promoting the subjective, malleable concept of truth as being whatever we feel it should be.
And so, while we’re on the topic of RBG, let’s examine “her truth.”
In 2012 Justice Ginsburg was interviewed by Egypt’s Al-Hayat TV and was asked what constitutional model Egypt should adopt. Instead of recommending a U.S.-style Constitution, Justice Ginsburg advised Egyptians to adopt something along the lines of the South African Constitution. Justice Ginsburg said the following about South Africa’s highest law:
“That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. … It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the U.S Constitution.”
As someone who emigrated from South Africa and became a U.S. citizen, in large part because of my beliefs of individual liberty, limited government, and the founding principles of the United States, I have some thoughts on this.
The South African Constitution certainly has positive aspects, such as the protection of free speech and an independent judiciary, but it is also jam packed full of rights to goods and services, such as housing, food, and education. The problem is that when people call on the government to provide for these needs, the state has to find the money somewhere. And as government has no money of its own, it has to take from some citizens to provide for others. And more often than not, when the government provides goods and services, it does so extraordinarily badly.
The South African Constitution states that “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care…” That sounds nice, except that the Department of Health’s Office of Health Standards Compliance found that 85 percent of all public facilities do not meet the most basic standards of care. South Africa’s media is filled with stories of medicine stock outs at public clinics across the country, as well horrendous instances of abuse of patients. For instance, recently a local clinic referred a 76-year-old woman to Mamelodi Hospital near Pretoria for urgent medical treatment. Inexplicably, instead of treating the woman, the nursing staff forced her to lie on the floor and shackled her to a bench with her hands behind her back and left her there for the entire night in mid-winter. South Africa’s Human Rights Commission is investigating the incident and has raised concerns about abuses throughout the public health care system.
South Africans have a right to education, yet thanks to the incredibly militant public teachers’ union which makes it practically impossible to fire an under-performing teacher, the country’s children are barely being educated. A recent World Economic Forum survey rated South Africa’s science, technology, engineering, and math education as the worst among 148 countries. Only half of those who enroll in school actually complete the 12th grade.
South Africans have the right to life, which is nice, until you consider how many lives are lost at the hands of the government. In 2017 the police’s Internal Complaints Directorate found that in 2017 over 200 people were killed by the police, either in police custody or as a result of police action. In addition, there were over 50 cases of rapes and over 60 incidents of torture by policemen. At a platinum mine in Marikana in 2012, the police shot and killed 34 striking miners, many of them in the back. At the time, South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was a non-executive director of the platinum mine. Every year the government pays out millions of dollars to the South Africans and their families to compensate them for crimes committed by the police.
Property rights are protected by the Constitution, however the government is moving towards deleting that provision. If and when the ruling ANC acts on its stated wishes to destroy property rights, economic collapse will surely follow.
One could go on and on, but it’s worth asking how RBG’s truth working out for South Africans? Not so well. Consider that over the past decade, over 100,000 South Africans, many of them skilled professionals, have emigrated, some of them to the United States where the U.S. Constitution restrains government rather than empowers it.
Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential primary candidates have been trotting out a seemingly never-ending list of new rights, like healthcare and education, they believe all Americans are entitled to.
As DC’s left-leaning residents look up at RBG’s image in Adams Morgan and ponder “her truth,” they might want to look around the world at the failure of expanded “rights” to goods and services before they vote for the same here.
Richard Tren lives and works in Washington, DC.