Slaveholders Lost Freedom Because of Emancipation, Argues Con Law Prof

University of St. Thomas Law Professor Robert Delahunty argues in this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune that “whenever the law expands the freedoms of one person or group, it necessarily contracts those of another.” Thus, he asserts that if gay couples are granted the freedom to marry, gay-marriage opponents will lose the freedom to live in a world without gay marriage — or, as he puts it, a world in which “marriage has a particular meaning” relating to “natural reproduction and family life.”

As another example of a “tradeoff” in human liberty, Delahunty cites slavery.

Of course, some tradeoffs are desirable. No one now regrets that the constitutional amendment banning slavery necessarily ended the freedom to own slaves. But it is not an argument for that amendment that it expanded freedom without contracting it. It did both.

So slaveowners lost what Delahunty calls a “freedom” — “the freedom to own slaves” — when they were forced to live in a world where they could no longer own slaves. It’s just that slaves gained more freedom from their freedom than slaveholders lost from losing the freedom to own other people.