On ‘freedom of association’

Prompted by an interesting comment on an earlier post about putative rights I did a little Googling about freedom of association. Something I need to know more about. Found this useful page on the subject.

The phrase “freedom of association” does not appear in the Constitution (although the First Amendment protects the right to peaceably assemble). Nonetheless, the Court has recognized to separate types of association that are constitutionally protected: (1) intimate association (protected as an aspect of the right of privacy) and (2) expressive association (protected as as an aspect of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech). Freedom of association cases are interesting in that they bring into conflict two competing views of the world: rights-oriented liberalism that holds that a person’s identity comes from individual choices (and that government ought to create a framework of laws that remove barriers to choice) and communitarianism, that holds that a person’s identity comes from the communities of which an individual is a part (and that communities are an important buffer between the government and the individual).

Well that’s very interesting, because I’ve been thinking of these issues as being about competing ideas of rights rather than about rights competing with communitarianism. I’m sharply aware that I much prefer rights and rights-oriented liberalism to communitarianism – so I’m being consistent here.

I’m tempted to copy in the whole left-hand column of the page, but that would be silly (and perhaps a copyright violation); just read it; it’s interesting.

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