Death Grip: Loosening the Law's Stranglehold over Economic Libertyby Clint Bolick
In an 1873 decision, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote—highly unusual in those days—upheld a bribery-procured Louisiana slaughterhouse monopoly that had been challenged by a group of butchers whose businesses were jeopardized. The majority ruled that the privileges (or immunities) clause of the Fourteenth Amendment added nothing to the handful of rights… See more details below
In an 1873 decision, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote—highly unusual in those days—upheld a bribery-procured Louisiana slaughterhouse monopoly that had been challenged by a group of butchers whose businesses were jeopardized. The majority ruled that the privileges (or immunities) clause of the Fourteenth Amendment added nothing to the handful of rights protected against abuse by the states in the original Constitution. By that decision, one of the most important and beneficial products of the Civil War—a revolutionary constitutional provision intended to protect civil rights against oppression by state governments—was nullified. The repercussions of that unfortunate decision—called the Slaughter-House cases—are still being felt today. Nearly a century and a half later, this right that many Americans deem fundamental enjoys virtually no legal protection whatsoever.
In Death-Grip: Loosening the Law’s Stranglehold over Economic Liberty, Clint Bolick examines the assault on economic liberty brought about by the Slaughter-House cases and describes the campaign to restore economic liberty as a fundamental civil right. In part one, he outlines the sorry state of economic liberty in the nation that is supposed to stand as a beacon of opportunity to the rest of the world. In part two, he examines the history and intent of the Fourteenth Amendment and the judicial nullification of the privileges (or immunities) clause in the Slaughter-House cases. Part three examines the aftermath of Slaughter-House, whose tragic consequences continue to manifest themselves today. He offers hope in part four, however, describing the current movement to reestablish economic liberty among our civil rights, so far with limited but growing success. A majority of the current Supreme Court appears to agree that the privileges (or immunities) clause means significantly more than interpreted in Slaughter-House. Even if the Court never expressly overturns Slaughter-House, it may well be responsive to reconsidering jurisprudence that relegates economic liberty to the lowest level of judicial protection. Ultimately, says Bolick, we must win the fight to restore economic liberty. Our nation’s endurance as a beacon of freedom depends on it.
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