In relation to the “What is a right” essay…

I posted below, I found this quotation attributed to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. I don’t have any other information detailing where it was published, so I’ll hold off on actually laying it at his feet (though if someone can give me a pointer, I’d appreciate it). However, it says in a paragraph what took me an entire essay — Rights are what a society believes they are. (Of course, I was trying to win something, and it was oriented specifically towards the right to arms, but….)

Here it is:

To some degree, a constitutional guarantee is like a commercial loan, you can only get it if, at the time, you don’t really need it. The most important, enduring, and stable portions of the Constitution represent such a deep social consensus that one suspects if they were entirely eliminated, very little would change. And the converse is also true. A guarantee may appear in the words of the Constitution, but when the society ceases to possess an abiding belief in it, it has no living effect. Consider the fate of the principle expressed in the Tenth Amendment that the federal government is a government of limited powers. I do not suggest that constitutionalization has no effect in helping the society to preserve allegiance to its fundamental principles. That is the whole purpose of a constitution. But the allegiance comes first and the preservation afterwards. (My emphasis)


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