June 30, 2010

Constitutional rights stand in the way of "democracy"

By Constitutional rights stand in the way of "democracy"

Author: Timothy Sandefur

Jacob Sullum puts it well:

In their dissenting opinions [in McDonald v. Chicago], Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer (joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor) worry that overturning gun control laws undermines democracy. If "the people" want to ban handguns, they say, "the people" should be allowed to implement that desire through their elected representatives.

What if the people want to ban books that offend them, establish an official church, or authorize police to conduct warrantless searches at will? Those options are also foreclosed by constitutional provisions that apply to the states by way of the 14th Amendment. The crucial difference between a pure democracy and a constitutional democracy like ours is that sometimes the majority does not decide…. [The dissenters] would never accept federalism as a rationale for letting states "experiment" with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or due process protections. Much of their job, as they themselves see it, involves overriding "local preferences" that give short shrift to constitutional rights.

(Read the rest…)

What to read next