This Article reveals the underappreciated role of liability rules in constitutional law. Conventional constitutional theory insists that constitutional entitlements require, by their nature, property rule protection. That is, they can only be taken with the owner’s consent; nonconsensual takings can be enjoined. This Article shows that many constitutional values are in fact protected by liability rules, which allow for forced transfers followed by payment of compensation. Substantive entitlements form one dimension of constitutional law. The various ways in which they are protected against transfers form the second dimension. The full picture of constitutional law only emerges from looking at both.
The Article locates liability rules in diverse areas such as the First Amendment prior restraint doctrine, the Third Amendment, Fourth Amendment search and seizure rules, the Due Process Clauses, the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Thus constitutional theory’s insistence on property rule protection fails account for how some constitutional values are actually protected. This Article develops a richer understanding of the relationship between constitutional remedies and constitutional entitlements. The transaction cost perspective on constitutional law reveals previously unnoticed connections between various doctrines, and provides a new criterion for evaluating their strengths and weakness.
This Article also presents new evidence that the Constitution does not require property rule protection and can be satisfied with liability rules. It shows that the oft-overlooked Third Amendment explicitly mandates property rule protection for the entitlement it defines. This property rule, together with the Takings Clause’s explicit liability rule, shows that for other entitlements the Constitution does not require any particular form of protection. The explicit property rule and the explicit liability rule define the second dimension in constitutional law.