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Why Associations Matter: The Case for First Amendment Pluralism, Luke C. Sheahan

Reviewed by Bryan T. Mcgraw

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Everyone loves voluntary associations, right? They help people pool resources, advance common projects, meet social needs, and much else. Indeed, for some, they are the linchpin of well-functioning democratic societies—except for the ones we do not like: the ones with odd or noxious beliefs, restrictive memberships or rules, and the like. Those we would just as well like to see disbanded or reconstructed or at least severely constrained. After all, democracy might not survive so well if we let people associate simply on their own unregulated terms.

Of course, that “we” disagree on which associations fall into which category and what we should do about them, if anything, is compounded by the fact that the U.S. Constitution pretty clearly protects the right of association, though what that right consists of is, thanks to a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, muddled and weak. In Liberty's Refuge, John Inazu traced the ways in which the Supreme Court's abandonment of the textual “right of assembly” in favor of a “right of association” has produced a thinly reasoned set of justifications that amount to offering protections to associations only if they are “intimate” or politically “expressive.”

Luke C. Sheahan's fine book Why Associations Matter pus

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