Civil Liberties

Anyone Care About Economic Liberty Anymore? George Thomas on the 14th Amendment

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"To take the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment seriously is to take economic liberties seriously," says George Thomas, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Thomas notes that, for most of our nation's history, there wasn't a rigid distinction between civil and economic liberties. The Bill of Rights treated them all as fundamental rights, and, as can be seen in the famous passage, the Fourteenth Amendment continued this tradition: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Thomas explains that the separation between civil and economic liberties began during the Franklin Roosevelt era, when various economic liberties seemed to be written out of the Constitution. He shows how recent Supreme Court decisions, such as in Kelo v. City of New London, which granted governments wider economic domain powers, and McDonald v. Chicago, which extended the Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms" to states and localities, figure in to how America defines and protects fundamental rights and economic liberties.

Approximately 10 minutes.

Interview by Sam Corcos. Shot and edited by Hawk Jensen.

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