Notes From Babel

We’ve Not Yet Begun to Plumb the Depths of a Bottomless Constitution

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Here’s a very interesting post over at Volokh.  See especially the comments.  The question, in short, is: if you believe the right to same-sex marriage is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and if you further believe that this means, by extension, the right to same-sex marriage has always been guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment—i.e., before the year 1900—then what other rights, heretofore unknown, and probably which would presently shock the conscience, might we later discover to also have been guaranteed all along?  The exercise is to help realize the practical effect of the idea that words are a bottomless well, unconstrained by their present commonly understood meaning, such that the people who ratify an amendment may be quite shocked to find out that they have done something quite beyond what they believed they did or had intended to do.

I culled some of the more interesting “rights” mentioned in the comments at the above link that we might later uncover in the full panoply of human justice that some believe is enshrined in the words of the Fourteenth Amendment:

  • The right to sell one’s organs and other body parts;
  • The right to commit suicide;
  • The right to own tanks, fighter jets, and nukes;
  • The right of whales and dolphins to “personhood”;
  • The right to duel;
  • The right to incestuous marriages;
  • The right to polygamous marriages;
  • Equal rights to artificial intelligence;
  • The right to be nude in public;
  • The right to a court system of one’s choosing – i.e., Shari’a, common law, civil law, or Confucian law.

UPDATE:  Here are some more good ones:

  • The right to conduct gang warfare in designated areas;
  • The right to throw oneself on a spouse’s funeral pyre;
  • Cannabalism of the naturally deceased;
  • Necrophilia of the naturally deceased;
  • The right to ingest whatever substance one wants;
  • The right to clone oneself, or more generally the right to use reproductive technologies that permit individuals to have genetic offspring.
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Written by Tim Kowal

August 9, 2010 at 8:59 pm

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