Randy Barnett's Bad List of Supreme Court Decisions

Growing up, I was like most Americans in my reverence for the Constitution. … Until I took Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. The experience was completely disillusioning, but not because of the professor, Laurence Tribe, who was an engaging and open-minded teacher. No, what disillusioned me was reading the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout the semester, as we covered one constitutional clause after another, passages that sounded great to me were drained by the Court of their obviously power-constraining meanings. First was the Necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), then the Commerce Clause (a bit) in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), then the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in The Slaughter-House Cases (1873), then the Commerce Clause (this time in earnest) in Wickard v. Filburn (1942), and the Ninth Amendment in United Public Workers v. Mitchell (1947).

Randy Barnett, in Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

Addendum: Brad Delong replied to this quotation post with “No, State Governments Have Not Been the Sacred Hearths of Human Liberty in America. Why Do You Ask?” making the excellent point that states rights in the US have historically been used for ignoble ends and should not be accorded the same respect as individual rights. Asserting the supremacy of the federal government over state governments can easily enhance, rather than diminish, individual rights. The reason I posted this quotation is because I lament the decisions gutting the “Privileges and Immunities Clause” and the Ninth Amendment–both of which are about individual rights, not states’ rights.