It is doubtful that anything has done more to ensure individual liberty or restrain government power in the United States than the Bill of Rights. These ten simple yet powerful amendments to the original Constitution are based on the premise that American citizens enjoy these rights as part of the natural order not at the whim of the government. The government does not grant these rights in the first place, nor can it revoke them. They are inalienable and are the citizen's best guarantee of freedom from abusive government power. In that regard, the Bill of Rights has been one of the critical elements in shaping law, government, and culture throughout American history.
Which is why it's always discouraging to see their original meaning and intent bastardized and usually turned completely on head. The latest example comes from last week's announcement that the Federal government was pushing a Web Privacy Bill Of Rights (WSJ-sub req):
In a reversal of the federal government's hands-off approach to Internet privacy regulation over the past decade, the Obama administration said Americans should have a "privacy bill of rights" to help regulate the commercial collection of consumer data online.
Great. Just what we need. Another government bureaucracy to help protect our rights. Not from the government mind you. No, this "bill of rights" is designed to protect us from those evil commercial enterprises who seek to learn more about us in order to sell goods and services to us (gasp!). Thus it joins the depressingly long list of other government interventions mislabeled as "bills of rights" including:
Patients' bill of rights (now actually probably necessary with ObamaCare)
Fliers' bill of rights
Investors' bill of rights
Those are just a few off the top of my head. None of them have anything to do limiting government power or protecting individual liberty. Rather they are premised on the notion that you the citizen are too stupid and ignorant to manage on your own and that the government must intervene--ostensibly on your behalf--to protect you. The end result is usually more bureaucracy and less choice for consumers. The "rights" they are allegedly defending are determined and defined by the government and can change or be suspended or eliminated at any time. These "bills of rights" have nothing to do with the original and to continue to falsely conflate them is a both a disservice and a form of deceit.