ON-Lion Letter
In an 1873 decision, by a then-highly unusual 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a bribery-procured Louisiana slaughterhouse monopoly that had been challenged by a group of butchers whose businesses were jeopardized.  The majority ruled that the privileges (or immunities) clause of the 14th Amendment added nothing to the handful of rights protected against abuse by the states in the original Constitution.

By that decision, as recounted in Bradley Prize recipient Clint Bolick's Death Grip:  Loosening the Law's Stranglehold over Economic Liberty, one of the most-important and -beneficial products of the Civil War -- a revolutionary constitutional provision intended to protect civil rights against oppression by state governments -- was nullified.  The repercussions of that unfortunate decision, in what's called the Slaughter-House cases, are still being felt today.  Nearly a century and a half later, this right that many Americans deem fundamental enjoys virtually no legal protection whatsoever.

Bolick directs the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix and is a research fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports Goldwater's Center for Constitutional Litigation and projects at Hoover, which published Death Grip.

In the book, Bolick examines the assault on economic liberty brought about by the Slaughter-House cases and describes the campaign to restore economic liberty as a fundamental civil right.  He outlines the sorry state of economic liberty in the nation that is supposed to stand as a beacon of opportunity to the rest of the world and examines the history and intent of the 14th Amendment and the judicial nullification of the privileges (or immunities) clause in the Slaughter-House cases.

Bolick also examines the aftermath of Slaughter-House, whose tragic consequences continue to manifest themselves today, in Death Grip.  He offers hope, however, describing the current movement to reestablish economic liberty among our civil rights, so far with limited but growing success. 

A majority of the current Supreme Court appears to agree that the privileges (or immunities) clause means significantly more than interpreted in Slaughter-House.  Even if the Court never expressly overturns Slaughter-House, it may well be responsive to reconsidering jurisprudence that relegates economic liberty to the lowest level of judicial protection.  Ultimately, says Bolick, we must win the fight to restore economic liberty. Our nation’s endurance as a beacon of freedom depends on it.
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