The Experience of Structure

By Justin Weinstein-Tull. 

How do we experience constitutional structure? We understand structure—federalism and the separation of powers—as the ordering of governmental bodies. Rarely, however, do we ask how those structures affect our daily lives. Courts treat this question abstractly, if they address it at all. They assert that federalism and separation of powers create “liberty” for individuals without specifying what that liberty looks like and who enjoys it. They speculate about the values of federalism and the normative virtues of the separation of powers. This is structural reasoning that sounds in human experience, but it is empty, based on little more than conjecture. The consequence is a faulty jurisprudential logic that permits courts to diminish federal rights for specific individuals in favor of uncertain, speculative, and generalized structural benefits that only some enjoy. Full Article.