Citizen’s Rights

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

—Mario Savio. 1964

This ending to a famous speech addressed a condition that now seems bizarre. The University of California at Berkeley in 1964 banned all political activity and fund raising, arresting students who offered literature at improvised tables on the edge of campus. The subjects were generally the oppression of black Americans and the early days of the War in Vietnam. The University was the “machine.” Savio and a few others led massive demonstrations on the campus that shut down administration buildings. (The picture above is anachronistic; it took place some weeks before the “bodies upon the gears” speech delivered in front of Sproul Hall. Savio here stands on a police car that was prevented from moving by the crowd.) The year before students at Stanford University closed the administration building for three weeks around similar issues. That same year (1964) hundreds of students were arrested at a prominent hotel petitioning it to give black citizens better jobs. That same year hundreds of students were arrested each of four weekends for blocking a major street in San Francisco, petitioning car dealerships on that street to offer jobs to black citizens. They gave in, the only reason the sit-ins came to an end. One of the organizers of that demonstration later became San Francisco’s District Attorney (Terrance Hallinan, losing that position to Kamala Harris in 2004). The spring of this river was 5000 students being washed down the stairs at San Francisco City Hall where the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) was holding anti-communist hearings in 1960. The conflict was very American.

We open this space on rights to suggest the differences between then and now, between effective non-violent protest for rights of free speech and economic security regardless of race (UC Berkeley eventually became the poster child for liberal student activity, hotels and car dealerships hired black citizens, and HUAC was run out of town) and January 6, and between the kind of country we were then compared to today, despite January 6. In 1964 America finally began the process of securing rights for blacks, other minorities, and women, shut down its anti-communist crusades that ruined thousands of people, and turned the dial up on human welfare and equality, largely through pressures imposed by student work in the South, protests in the North, the NAACP and ACLU, and the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren. That year began with the Civil Rights Act and then the Voting Rights the following year, filled out over the next three years to compose the Great Society Program that controls much of domestic political behavior today regardless of party. By almost any measure we are more free today, meant in both positive and negative senses, of freedom to and freedom from, than sixty years ago.

These events were not without their backlash. Ronald Reagan became Governor of California through a well-financed anti-student campaign. He later became the poster child for conservative Republicans as President. Much of the current Republican Party has abandoned the homilies of William Buckley and a party committed to responsibility and integrity as the backbone of American governance, trading them for blistering ad hominem attacks on Democrats, reducing taxes (while increasing spending and federal debt), and spewing a kind of rhetorical bile that encourages violence as a legitimate means, all thoughts of actually improving American life and rights buried under an avalanche of nonsense. But left-wing politics have also lost steam and effectiveness. Great Society programs stopped making progress for the most part between twenty and thirty years ago, and the marquee recent protest movements—Occupy, Women’s March on Washington, MeToo, and Black Lives Matter—have little to show for their efforts.

Over the course of American history our rights have grown, in number, in strength, in scope. The trajectory has not been uniformly positive. Much backsliding happened after the Civil War that stretched beyond World War II, but even during that time major advances materialized—women’s right to vote, the right to a closed union shop, the beginning of rights to economic security, and the incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment into state law relative to freedom of the press, speech, religion, and fair compensation for government takings of private property. (The other rights within the Bill of Rights were incorporated after World War II.) The current Supreme Court clearly means to deny rights to millions that previous Courts or laws had granted. But a recent version of that court granted homosexuals the right to marry, a giant step forward.

But we are far from done. Indeed, it is a process with no prospect of ending. A significant part of the unwritten Constitution concerns rights or the demand for rights that arise from changes in conditions. Today, we do not have a right to health care, the only developed nation to condemn millions to inadequate health care and bankruptcy when they cannot afford the bills. We do not have a right to broadband even though it has become the glue of life. We do not have a clear right to end our own life with assistance from others, regardless of pain and suffering. We do not have a right to college without personal cost even though college has become the essential feature of economic self-determination. Three of these prospective rights have been born on the back of new technologies and the demands they imply. We can expect more such changes as time passes and Silicon Valley spreads throughout the world.

We must also observe that not all rights are positive to the general health of our nation. The right to bear arms, suggested in the Second Amendment, stands out. One of the curious ironies of the current Supreme Court is its selective use of original meanings. In 2022 New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen Clarence Thomas wrote a preposterous opinion in which he appealed to the original meaning of the Second Amendment, which meaning is arguably opaque but surely favors connecting bearing arms to the necessity of militias, which necessity has disappeared. The word “self-defense” is not in the Amendment, hence requires being imported by means that remain largely subjective. But then Thomas fails to apply the meaning at the time, the original meaning, of “arms,” allowing for today’s version which includes terrorist weapons. Consistency—not Thomas’ trademark—would have compelled him to limit arms to those requiring hand loading of ball and powder; the bullet had not been invented yet. His opinion will certainly cause more accidental shootings and deaths, and as certain to not improve personal safety to any significant degree. He must imagine some early version of western movies, the bad guys always killed, the good guys never harmed. The Supreme Court’s decisions that make evidence obtained without a warrant inadmissible in court seem to go too far. The Roberts Court has usefully rolled back some of the Warren Court decisions that barred any public money to any religious institution on First Amendment grounds. Over time the Court has generally tended to straighten out its errors. The right of free speech has expanded dramatically since the “clear and present danger” days. Even this Court is unlikely to roll them back.

We submit that this growth in liberty has arrived in our country largely on the backs of people like Mario Savio, organizations like the ACLU (and the NRA to admit again that some freedoms are not healthy), and Supreme Court cases, not from our elected leaders taking initiatives. This condition gives a Janus face to popular sovereignty. The people elect leaders who are then supposed to perform duties for the people. This is the essential position taken by the Federalist Papers, whose writers clearly distrust factions of any size or purpose. But then the people tell our elected leaders what to do, usually through factions led by ordinary citizens. As we note elsewhere, Federalist 10 actually explains this phenomena (if we ignore the clearly wrong argument at its conclusion). This dance of contraries has stabilized our democracy, likely a central reason we still have it. Madison feared minority oppression at the hands of majorities. But he insisted on the ultimate power of majorities. Our history of civil rights has been the rise of minorities over the majority at critical moments, usually taking a long time, but usually nosing the peanut of true rights down the road of progress. May it ever be so.

We wind up this introduction with an observation made by Christopher Tiedeman in his The Unwritten Constitution of the United States (1890) that supports this observation. We like Tiedeman because he is very conservative, fitting well with today’s intellectual conservatives of the far right, but he made sense most of the time. In his last chapter he opens by citing a durable tension between forces for consolidation and forces for disintegration. He divides the founders into one or the other camp. He then presents his view of internal constraints designed by the Constitution: “Taken as a whole, it was the most ingenious device for the prevention of legislation the world has ever known.” (See Hamilton on the same subject in Federalist 73.) After discussing the Constitution for a page or two he claims that “there can be (little) doubt that the danger of official tyranny has been successfully dissipated . . . except so far as such tyranny may be demanded by a popular majority.” He does not cite the tyranny of the majority relative to black Americans at the time, or the tyranny of agricultural interests feared by Hamilton and Madison in the Papers. He of course could not cite the prayers of some current Republicans to return to that state of tyranny in the name of individualism, code for white male supremacy. He insists the popular will cannot be suppressed, and the popular will may be oppressive, perhaps will be oppressive. The brake on this form of oppression is the Supreme Court and separation of powers, built into the written Constitution. “This is the real value of the written Constitution. It legalizes and therefor makes possible and successful the opposition to the popular will.” This strikes a particular chord. Our history of rights has been just this in a way, the assertion of rights for particular minorities or those out of power, unable to participate in the “popular will,” who assert themselves with enough strength, enough passion, and enough persistence to earn protection by or from the government. Much of it is a grand, ongoing story.

1. What is a Right?

A right may be seen as an entitlement to a general or specific power, privilege, or immunity relative to some institution, group, or another person within a specific political jurisdiction.

Entitlement

A right is something to which we are entitled based upon our standing as a person or citizen; it is not something we buy or earn in any special way. That many rights come with conditions—we must be 18 to vote, 21 to drink, and poor to receive welfare—does not gainsay this general sense of rights in the abstract as somehow inherent within the idea of a political community. However, the actual source of entitlement varies and our actual rights have developed over time; some remain in serious dispute and almost all suffer ambiguities at their edges. The Supreme Court is called upon every year to decide, once again or in some new way, many rights, and most have passed through its halls at one time or another.

We may be thrown off the idea of specific rights having historically contingencies by the statement from the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed by our “Creator” with “certain unalienable rights,” suggesting they cannot be denied or abrogated, the meaning of “unalienable” (this word is misspelled in the Declaration—“inalienable” dates as far back as Johnson’s 1755 dictionary—but holding to the wrong spelling has become the custom). Yet we know that they have been denied and abrogated on many occasions, and such denial is a constant threat. The Declaration is more accurate some words later, when it insists “that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.” In the end, this will be the Declaration’s most fundamental claim, that the governed should have some say in the laws which govern them. This is the foundation principle of modern republican governments. The combination holds for rights as well. The government decides our rights and ministers to their application or protection, even those rights protecting us from the government itself. We who are entitled to these rights should, and do in our system of government, have some say over their nature and scope.

Rights then are not strictly speaking “unalienable.” The rights that mean something, for which entitlement confers a real power, privilege, or immunity upon a person, arises from a relationship between an individual and that individual’s government(s), which relationship will always have some historical contingency, and be subject to change, limitations, and exceptions. Our “right to life” does not ordinarily dissolve a citizen’s obligation to perform military service when required. Our “right to liberty” does not include boarding an airplane without passing through security. Our “right to happiness” does not include legal marriage to more than one other person at a time.

Power, privilege, or immunity

We may think of power in this context as empowerment, the right to act—to speak, print protests, practice the religion of our choice, own a gun—without state interference, repression, or prior restraint, even if the state might wish it otherwise. In some cases such rights carry implied responsibilities. The right to vote means very little if no one votes; the right to petition likewise means nothing if no one petitions. Privilege on the other hand tends to refer to powers to act that do not have potential conflicts with the state itself, such as the right to education or police protection. Immunities generally mean protections from arbitrary powers of the government, usually police or taxation powers. Some of these immunities number among the oldest rights in English constitutional history—habeas corpus, trial by jury, right to counsel, consent or representation as a requirement of taxation.

Relative to an institution, group, or other individual

This component of what a right means often suffers elision. But the specific entity to which any right is related must be included in its calculus. Our right to vote does not include the right to vote in Maine if we live in California, unless we also have a house in Maine that entitles its owner to vote on any issue in one’s municipality in Maine relative to budgets. This distinction is particularly important for applications of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), which extended the rights of the Constitution as written before 1868 to all states of the union which had previously been exempt from the legal requirement to oblige them. We are still working out the exact nature of rights spread over several governments in critical areas such as education and health care. Furthermore, a strong component of rights in the United States evolving over the last century concerns rights of individuals or minorities relative to majorities, non-government institutions such as businesses, and other individuals. Businesses can no longer pollute the environment at will, or fire people at will, or discriminate against minorities at will. People cannot smoke within public places, workplaces, or bars now. Many public schools have recently taken a highly punitive attitude towards bullying, some prohibiting contact of any kind among students even at recess. These are rights or protections (a kind of right) which were unthinkable even fifty years ago.

Indeed, our republican, federalist system of governments constantly struggles between its power derived from the majority (or the most powerful, usually connected with the most wealthy) and its needs to protect the rights of minorities (or vast majorities without power or wealth) relative to the same majorities (or centers of power). This extends to the relationships between the federal government and the states. During a dark period, from 1876 to 1964, an entire community denominated by race and numbering in the millions was viciously and legally discriminated against by “majorities” in the south with hardly a blink from the Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court. The Court actually blessed this condition, in effect, with numerous decisions favoring “state’s rights,” the most famous of which became 1896 Plessy v Ferguson, a decision allowing separate facilities for blacks and whites as long as they were “equal” (when everyone knew they were far from equal). Plessy was not challenged until 1954 Brown v Board of Education. But the question of state’s rights was not settled then, or now. Indeed, Chief Justice Rehnquist (1986-2005) declared that the separate but equal demand from Plessy as a state’s right was correct (he used the word affirmed, which in fact it remains), implying that Brown, perhaps the most important Supreme Court case in history, and certainly the most important after the Marshal Court (1801-1835), made the wrong decision. That he was unable, and perhaps never tried, to reverse Brown as Chief Justice testifies to the ongoing tensions even as certain minority rights appear now to be sacred. (We note in another place that Plessy has been used on its head, as in Brown, because separate and equal are often impossible to maintain at the same time, hence the condition that permits separate cannot be realized, hence separate is unconstitutional in many instances. This is the reason Plessy still stands; it has helped the civil rights of black Americans. We cannot explain Rehnquist’s defense of Plessy, but it may have been along these lines.)

Jurisdiction

While many rights are considered to be fundamental by many people, and hence applicable to all people in all jurisdictions at all times, the practical circumstance is that rights only have real meaning within a particular political jurisdiction which has the power to administer the rights it recognizes. In a political system of shared sovereignty with concurrent powers among federal, state, and local levels, the arrangement we have in the United States, the question of jurisdiction can be quite complicated. Certain rights are given in the federal Constitution but until recently were only applicable to federal laws; states were free to trammel on free speech or deny due process within the ambit of their own laws until the early twentieth century, and some federal rights are still restricted to federal courts and criminal proceedings. Every state constitution confers certain rights to its citizens, some of which overlap federal rights, some of which do not, and in the past some of which actually conflicted with federal rights. When brought to court the federal rights win, as the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” but getting there has sometimes been difficult. The broad denial of rights to people of color in the South from 1876 to 1964 often had state constitutional backing but would not penetrate the right of the federal Supreme Court to deny appeals.

2. Legitimization of Rights

The legitimization of Rights in the United States has been legally segregated into three categories: constitutional, fundamental, and legislated. We might add a fourth category, say “natural,” that covers rights which have come into common expectation but are neither constitutional, nor fundamental, nor legislative in any explicit way. Our right to electricity would be in this category.

Constitutional Rights

Constitutional rights are ones specified in our constitutions. They are sometimes called “enumerated rights.” The fact of being enumerated does not free any of them from ambiguity. Even the first-named and perhaps most ancient constitutional right, that of habeas corpus, suffers intended denial under some circumstances (the several dozen prisoners still held at Guantanamo Bay or for the entire Civil War, for example). A benefit of constitutional rights is that the Supreme Court cannot decide that they are not rights. The Court can decide the limits on such rights, but not the right itself. This gives constitutional rights the most effective power of the rights we expect in our society.

The Constitution itself, prior to Amendment, names the following rights: habeas corpus, no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws; trial by jury; and no titles of nobility. It also constrains treason. The Privileges and Immunities clause (IV, section 2) carries a suite of rights within its unfortunately vague title, which list has changed with time but includes many fundamental rights, such as the right to freely travel from state to state, to work in another state, to be recognized as married in any state, to practice law in a state in which one does not live, to own property in another state, to file a lawsuit in another state (usually because the defendant is in that state). It does not include the right to vote in any state except in one’s state of residency (with some exceptions—there are always exceptions). A 1873 Supreme Court case (The Slaughter-House Cases) took the trouble to asset two forms of citizenship, one state, one federal, to limit application of the Privileges or Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a diminishment the Court has never fully reversed.

Of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution, fourteen concern rights. Four limit state impediments to voting (15, 19, 23, 25); an affirmative right to vote is not in the Constitution. Two provide what we have called positive rights even though they are written as negative rights (1 and 2). A host of negative rights are impressed upon the remaining sections of the Bill of Rights (3 through 9), most having to do with police and court behavior. The Fourteenth Amendment applied federal rights to the states (prior to 1868, the Bill of Rights only applied to federal laws and behavior, as affirmed in 1833 Barron v Baltimore), but the process has been tortuous, each one imposed by the Supreme Court through incorporation, with four remaining (and unlikely to be incorporated).

Every state constitution in the United States includes rights which apply to that state. For example, every state declares education to be an enumerated right, while the federal constitution does not, a condition affirmed by 1973 San Antonio Independent School District v Rodriguez. However, there is no force within our federalist system that insists that legal rights in one state must apply to any other state, one reason for the prickly meaning of the Privileges and Immunities clause. This leads to various forms of chaos when a particular right gains a foothold somewhere. We are going through that now with marijuana, assisted suicide, legal gambling,

We must make mention of sections in the Constitution which either now or have once gone the other way, denying what some might consider a right. The Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol comes to mind. It did not bar drinking, but it made drinking much harder and dangerous. Of course, it was repealed. The original Constitution had three provisions protecting slavery. One, the fugitive slave provision, was actively resisted by many in the north, but the recognition of slavery stands as a serious stain on the original Constitution’s commitment to life, liberty, and happiness. The requirement that the President be born in the United States now seems like an unnecessary limitation. However, the rights that took the most serious hits were hit by the Constitution’s commitment to federalism. Popular majority rule was jettisoned by the composition of the Senate, the way we elect a President, the requirement that both houses approve a law, and the Senate’s involvement with treaties and appointments. States determine voter qualifications, admittedly within limits imposed by the four Amendments mentioned above, but the efforts of red states to impede voting by minorities is disgraceful.

Fundamental Rights

When in the heat of battle we often find ourselves declaring this or that right not in the Constitution to be fundamental, such as the right of gay couples to marry under the same laws and conditions as heterosexual couples. However, the Supreme Court, which is the ultimate arbitrator of such matters, has consistently held that fundamental rights not enumerated in the Constitution are only those rights which have been respected as rights for a very long time, and have thus become a tradition within our communities. The right to freely travel within the United States without border restrictions is a common example, although it has also been protected under the Privileges and Immunities clause. The case of 1962 Griswald v Connecticut about the power of the state to restrict access to birth control turned on our fundamental right to privacy, which right was the ground for 1973 Roe v Wade. This list is not long, and it does not include the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to marry. The Supreme Court’s recent rulings affirming the right of gay and lesbian citizens to marry turned on its treatment of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Perhaps the most fundamental of our fundamental rights is the right to vote. Surprisingly, this is not a constitutional right (the Constitutional amendments on rights bar the denial of rights to vote, but there is no affirmative right to vote), almost surely because when the Constitution was written the question of who had the right to vote, and under what conditions, were highly contentious, and thus left to the states to decide (see Article I, Section 2). Many states then required religious and property tests. Of course it was universally held that women were not allowed to vote, (except for about forty years starting in 1777 under the first New Jersey constitution), and slaves of course were not considered people and hence not prospective voters. Sadly, many states to this day try to limit the right to vote by various ruses such as photo ids (which at least 10% of our people do not possess) or restricting days or time of voting.

Legislated Rights

We generally see rights as guaranteed by our Constitutions and the Supreme Court. But federal legislation has also created rights, if construed liberally, many rights. The Great Society Program created quite a few—bars against discrimination in employment, public transportation, and housing, bars against literacy tests and poll taxes in voting, and minimum wage among others.

Natural Rights

We include in this category not what has been called “natural law rights,” like “life, liberty, and happiness,” or “property” as Locke would have it (Jefferson seems to have found happiness to be a superior, or more acceptable, right). We mean rights that have arisen through custom, habit, and general acceptance, but without official government or legal sanction. The rights to electricity and clean water, police and fire protection, telephone and television, and now the Internet number among such rights. Yes, we have to pay for them in one way or another, but we cannot be denied them if we can pay.

3. The Rights Covered Here

This segment of the Federalist Paper Project hopes to provide a detailed account of some one hundred rights we enjoy or claim as citizens of the United States. At present we only supply a list. To give some order to the list, we have divided our rights into six categories: (1) General Principles, such as the right to a republican government; (2) Structural Rights, such as separation and balance of powers; (3) Rights to Act, such as voting and speaking; (4) Freedom from government coercion, such as trial by jury and Miranda warnings; (5) Rights to services such as defense and education; and (6) economic rights, such as contract law and fair employment practices. Over time we hope to provide for each right in each category a description and an explanation, any constitutional or legislative backing at federal and state levels, the historical record, relevant court decisions, and the current state, whether stable (as habeas corpus and trial by jury) or unstable (as health care and reproductive decisions by women).

I. General Principles

All citizen rights fall out from certain principles that were actively discussed at the country’s founding and which have not changed in essence even as they have changed in application and scope. The specific rights covered here include:

  • Popular Sovereignty
  • Republican Government
  • Citizenship
  • Collective Action
  • All Men Are Created Equal
  • Consent of the Governed
  • Alter or Abolish

II. Structural Rights

The founders believed that the principal source of abuse and abrogation of natural rights was the government itself. (We have a much broader view today, adding corporations, private associations, and even individuals to the library of culprits.) Indeed, Madison defined “tyranny” as the natural tendency of any form of government to seriously abuse our natural rights when unconstrained internally and divorced from ultimate popular control. The Constitution attempts to structure and limit the Federal government such that its natural tendencies to tyranny seen this way is mitigated and corrected when manifest. Without this structure and set of limitations, no assertion of specific rights would have much meaning for want of regular enforcement. Structural rights covered here include:

  • Ninth Amendment Reservations
  • Tenth Amendment Reservations
  • Free Elections
  • Separation of Powers
  • Balance of Powers
  • Impeachment and Recall
  • Judicial Review

III. Freedom to Act

Many statements of rights address potential prohibitions or punishments for certain kinds of acts which the government or certain social groups might consider dangerous or undesirable. The most famous are the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition, religion, and bearing arms (Amendments I and II of the Constitution), but recent civil rights innovations have extended such rights to the purchase of a home or the right to attend a neighborhood public school. The underlying assumption of these rights is that a well-oiled political society will encourage such acts, hence they need this form of protection. The rights under this category include:

  • Right to Vote
  • Voter Qualifications
  • Representative Qualifications
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Freedom of Assembly
  • Freedom of Petition
  • Right to Bear Arms
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Equal Access to Housing
  • Equal Access to Education
  • Equal Access to Public Office
  • Rights of Handicapped
  • Rights of Immigrants
  • Gender Free Marriage
  • Assisted Suicide
  • Other Civil Rights

IV. Freedom from Government Coercion

Another large body of rights restricts government police powers and promotes equity in judicial proceedings, both criminal and civil. The Constitution itself bars bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and suspension of habeas corpus, and grants trail by jury in criminal cases, among others. The Bill of Rights adds a laundry list in Amendments IV through VIII, which through Amendment XIV have been extended to all states and developed into many specific protections, such as Miranda rights and disqualification of evidence if obtained without warrant. This list includes:

Habeas Corpus

  • No Ex Post Facto Laws
  • No Bill of Attainder
  • Criminal Trial by Jury
  • Limits on Treason
  • No Titles of Nobility
  • No Quartering of Soldiers in Time of Peace*
  • No Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
  • Warrants Require Probable Cause
  • Grand Jury Indictment for Capital Crimes*
  • No Double Jeopardy
  • No Self-incrimination
  • Due Process
  • No Takings without Compensation
  • Fair and Speedy Trial
  • Impartial Jury
  • Right to Confront Witnesses
  • Right to Compel Witnesses for Defense
  • Right to an Attorney
  • Trial by Jury for Civil Cases*
  • Re-examination Bar*
  • No Excessive Bail or Fines
  • No Cruel or Unusual Punishment
  • No Involuntary Servitude
  • States Barred from Abridging Rights
  • States Required Equal Protection of Law
  • States Required Due Process
  • *not incorporated in state law

V. Rights to Services

No government in 1787 considered itself as a provider of public services other than certain infrastructure projects and military security (although Georgia’s first constitution of 1777 provided for publicly funded education). Now all governments provide a wide range of services, from housing projects and unemployment benefits to drivers licenses and building codes. Some state constitutions state explicitly that all such services are available as a right on an equal basis, and most such services from public resources carry such a right by implication. Some rights to services, such as health care, are still in substantial states of flux and indecision. Services we generally consider rights now include:

The original Constitution contains provisions to insure individual property rights, one of the so-called “natural” rights omitted from the Declaration of Independence but explicit in almost all other affirmations of natural rights within state declarations of rights. It also protected patents and copyrights. But over the last hundred years all governments have expanded economic rights to cover consumers and workers. Some of these rights have a basis in protection against exploitation and the natural abuses of capitalism, but many also promote redistribution of economic power, both to reverse a free-market system’s tendency to concentrate economic power in very few hands, and to increase the consumer basis required for general market growth.

  • Property Laws
  • Contracts and Contract Law
  • Copyright Protection
  • Patent Protection
  • Unions and Collective Bargaining
  • Equal Opportunity Employment
  • Fair Employment Terminations
  • Rent Control
  • Bankruptcy Protection
  • Foreclosure Protection
  • Full Disclosure Protection
  • Workman’s Compensation
  • Minimum Wage
  • Workplace Safety
  • Immigration Employment
  • Overtime Rules
  • Child Labor
  • Benefits Under Poverty