The Economics of The Bill of Rights
38 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2007
Date Written: July 22, 2007
We elucidate, connect, and synthesize the literature that employs economics to study the individual rights and freedoms protected by the constitutional amendments comprising The Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech and of the press, the right to bear arms, the right against unreasonable searches, the right against self-incrimination, the right to trial by jury, and the right against excessive punishment. Economics is uniquely suited to studying decisions involving tradeoffs, and each of the amendments require tradeoffs; for example, between censuring productive speech and allowing harmful speech, between disarming crime victims and arming criminals, between reducing privacy and increasing crime, or between punishing the innocent and acquitting the guilty. Emphasizing these tradeoffs allows us to discuss the constitutional rights in terms of "more or less," as opposed to taking an absolutist approach. We find that the economic literature on the amendments of The Bill of Rights is vibrant and growing, and that viewing the amendments within the framework of economics is highly useful.
Keywords: Economics, law, government, crime, freedom, speech, press, guns, privacy, silence, jury, punishment
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K40, H00, H10, H11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation