Rank Your Rights!

I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of rights, and the unavoidable tradeoffs that must be made in society to balance and prioritize various rights against each other. It occured to me that it would be interesting to learn explictly what rights folks value the most — and indeed, to go through a more formal process of identifying my own priorities.
So, a meme for you: Rank the Bill of Rights!
Take the first ten Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and present them in your order of priority, with the most important first and least important last. Comment if you like to explain your rationales, and post your results here in a comment, or on your own blog (and don’t forget to TrackBack).
So here’s my list:
Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
It’s the classic; if you had to pick one Amendment that sums up the American ideal, this would be it.
Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In a nutshell: The State is not allowed to just screw you over for no reason.
Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Translation: No kangaroo courts here. If the State wants to lock you up, there are rules it must follow to ensure you get your fair say.
Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Despite my endorsement of the TIA system, the Fourth Amendment is indeed an important one. Although honestly, the ‘seizure’ part is of more concern to me than the ‘search’ part.
Amendment II: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Ah, the Bart Simpson of Constitutional amendments: so misunderstood, and such a damned troublemaker. But important…
Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but human history says it does: No torture.
Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
A classic Founders moment: Hey, they say, just because we might have left some stuff out, don’t be thinkin’ that means the State can just do what it pleases about that stuff.
Amendment VII: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Trial by jury is a good thing…
Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Federalism; also a good thing.
Amendment III: No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Doesn’t quite seem as relevant to me as I’m sure it did in the Founder’s time… then again, I might feel differently if a platoon showed up on my doorstep tomorrow and told me they were going to crash at my place for a few months…