Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Privileges or Immunities Clause, Much More than an Inkblot:

It's easy to lambast Supreme Court decisions finding all sorts of rights within the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. This is exactly what Princeton's Robert George does in an article criticizing the Court's privacy/substantive due process decisions. The Due Process Clause is just that, a "process" or procedural clause (i.e., contains no substantive rights). Arguably the Equal Protection Clause is also a procedural clause demanding the equal application of whatever general laws are on the books.

HOWEVER, the 14th Amendment, properly understood, does indeed contain substantive rights. Indeed, there are so many substantive rights contained within the 14th Amendment, they are, like those of the 9th Amendment, enumerated because they are unenumerable. And they all are properly derived from the Privileges or Immunities Clause.

It's interesting, the unenumerable specific rights contained within both the 14th and 9th Amendments stem from the general rights of liberty and equality. And of course, liberty and equality are the twin pillars of (small l) liberalism, with the United States being the first true liberal democracy. After the Slaughterhouse Cases, after the Court, in one of its worst decisions, eviscerate the Privileges or Immunities Clause, without overturning that decision, it had to look elsewhere in the text of the Constitution in order to place substantive guarantees of liberty and equality. So the Court, arguably looked to the next most logical places, where the words "liberty" and "equality" are actually contained in the text of the 14th Amendment, in the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, respectively.

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