A Response to the Primary Right

Jeff Pierce

In his post on the Primary Right, Carter Dillard equates the right to be let alone with the right to be alone, as in, utterly and completely alone.  Up PR1Carter’s sleeve hides an unspoken premise resembling something like this: the influence of other human beings, however minor, spoils my inalienable right to be ruggedly individual.

I characterize his conception of freedom as rugged individualism because the right to be alone feels unmistakably American.  Thoreau is lurking there, skipping stones with Herbert Hoover and Paul Ryan.  To call the right “primary” suggests it’s universal.  But if a Tembu South African or a Tembé Brazilian failed to recognize herself in this concept, the right to be alone is neither universal nor primary.

PR3The right to be alone is distinctly American for another reason: Carter extracts it from a dissenting opinion Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1928.  This is the same Louis Brandeis who, while yet an attorney in 1890, sowed within American jurisprudence an entirely novel right when he published, with Samuel Warren, “The Right to Privacy” in the Harvard Law Review.

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