Should Federal Courts Defend Rights to Economic Freedom?
There are a great many ways Federal courts could be reformed. One major reform articulated, litigated, and advocated over the last twenty years by legal scholars with the Institute for Justice, is to revive the natural rights protections thought to be originally included in the Fourteenth Amendment.
IJ’s Economic Liberty page explains why they litigate for individual rights to engage in honest enterprise:
Arbitrary licensing and permitting laws foreclose many occupations that are ideally suited to people of modest means. The Institute for Justice challenges these laws to secure constitutional protection for the right to earn a living and to demonstrate the importance of entrepreneurship to inner-city revitalization.
The precedent we set in our work and the victories we achieve will pave the way for thousands of hard-working men and women to enter the work force and provide for themselves and their families through honest enterprise. Check out more information on our economic liberty litigation.
A compelling video, Braiding Freedom, tells the story on entrepreneurs fighting against arbitrary state regulations:
The story of regulators making life difficult for middle and low-income entrepreneurs covers millions whose work is currently at risk from regulations. Some examples: Uber drivers in New York City and California, Church cemeteries selling unlicensed headstones, food trucks, unlicensed florists, dentists who charge too little, are among many examples featured in videos on IJ’s YouTube channel.
Overzealous and often arbitrary local licensing regulations play a role in expanding urban blight and slowing small businesses trying to rebuild. Consider “Operation Compliance: Detroit’s War on Small Business,” aimed at forcing small Detroit businesses to comply with hundreds (or thousands?) of city regulations:
But business owners say that Operation Compliance unfairly targets small, struggling businesses in poor areas of town and that the city’s maze of regulations is nearly impossible to navigate, with permit fees that are excessive and damaging to businesses running on thin profit margins.
“It is hard to run a business in Detroit. It’s taken me three years to get approval for an outside patio,” says Larry Mongo, who runs Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy a successful bar and restaurant in downtown Detroit.
While Cafe D’Mongo’s is now well-established and successful, Mongo says that the inscrutable regulations, frustrating bureaucracy, and rampant corruption among city officials discourages many would-be entrepreneurs from ever pursuing their business ideas in the city.
Here is the Reason.tv video on the ongoing Operation Compliance regulatory conflicts:
Never in modern times has the need for enforcing constitutional limits on government been more urgent. Government at all levels has expanded to threaten our most basic liberties and our very way of life. This explosion of political power violates our Constitution, which was carefully crafted to protect us from the rampant and intrusive government we now have.
But the Constitution is meaningless if the provisions enshrined in it by the Framers are not enforced. That is the duty of our courts. They must be the “bulwarks of liberty” envisioned by James Madison, and judges are obliged to prevent the government from exercising powers not authorized by the Constitution. But rather than the bulwarks they were designed to be, courts have instead shown an increasingly misguided deference to other branches of government.
The Federal court system should be reformed to protect the natural rights intended in the language of the Fourteenth Amendment (but written out by the Supreme Court’s Slaughterhouse decision).
This IJ documentary “The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: A History” explains legal arguments from the post Civil War era to the present for the Supreme Court to defend the “privileges and immunities” (natural rights) of Americans.