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The Myth of Rights – The Purposes and Limits of Constitutional Rights - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Myth of Rights: The Purposes and Limits of Constitutional Rights

Ashutosh Bhagwat


What is a constitutional right? If asked, most Americans would say that it is an entitlement to act as one pleases — i.e., that rights protect autonomy. That understanding, however, is wrong; it is, indeed, The Myth of Rights. The primary purpose and effect of constitutional rights in our society is structural. These rights restrain governmental power in order to maintain a balance between citizens and the State, and an appropriately limited role for the State in our society. Of course, restricting governmental power does have the effect of advancing individual autonomy, but that is not the pr ... More

Keywords: constitutional rights, individual autonomy, governmental power, citizens, executive power, second Bush Administration, flag-burning, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, public policy

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2010 Print ISBN-13: 9780195377781
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377781.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Ashutosh Bhagwat, author