Blogs > Liberty and Power > Right to Privacy: It's already there

Nov 17, 2005 3:07 pm

Right to Privacy: It's already there

Yesterday’s NYT ran an op-ed by a journalist, Dan Savage, which argues that we ought to have a constitutional amendment to specify a right to privacy. (Either this link or this link ought to work to read the essay.) Can you guess what I think is the main problem here? I wrote a letter to the editor. UPDATE: I was premature in my earler lament. The letter to the editor I wrote on this will in fact be published. (That'll be my 7th published NYT letter to the editor, if you're keeping score at home!) I will post another update when it runs.

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Aeon J. Skoble - 11/22/2005

One reason why some opposed the bill of rights is that they guessed (correctly, it turns out) that "if we specify some, future generations will think we meant those are the only ones we have." The 9th is meant to stave off that interpretation, and still didn't work. Stipulating a right to privacy might then be pyrrhic victory. In any case, I took him to be conceding the no-constitutional-right-to-privacy point when we made fun of the penumbras.

Charles Johnson - 11/22/2005

Did Savage claim that there isn't a right to privacy in the Constitution? As I read his column, he seemed to be saying that whether there is one or not, it's a matter of dispute and that the dispute could be settled unambiguously by adding an explicit amendment protecting the right to privacy. And further that it would be politically advantageous for supporters of the right to privacy to do so. But of course you can believe that while fully believing that the constitution already recognizes the right to privacy.

(You could make a similar argument that the whole first section of the 14th Amendment merely makes more explicit what any reasonable reading of "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government" in Article IV Section 4 would demand; but that it was helpful, ca. 1868, to pass an amendment in order to make sure to settle a particular dispute over the kinds of state governments that white Southerners could get away with imposing.)