Civil Liberties Outside the Courts
60 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2014 Last revised: 27 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 26, 2015
This article recovers the institutional alternatives to judicial enforcement of civil liberties during the New Deal. Based on archival research, it demonstrates that the court-based strategy was deeply contested and remained controversial well after the foundational First Amendment victories. Today, theories of civil liberties are premised on state neutrality in the domain of public debate; in the 1930s, the most prominent accounts demanded affirmative government intervention to correct distortions in the marketplace of ideas or to advance substantive rights. In examining these forgotten traditions, the article highlights the close and unexplored connection between civil liberties and organized labor during the New Deal. Surprisingly, early proponents of civil liberties understood the term to encompass, above all, the rights to organize, picket, and strike. Reconstructing the competing visions of civil liberties and their optimal enforcement before and after the “Constitutional Revolution” reveals the anticipated trade-offs of the judicial strategy, with important implications for theoretical accounts of constitutional change.
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