Constitutional Rights, Balancing, and Rationality

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The article begins with an outline of the balancing construction as developed by the German Federal Constitutional court since the Lüth decision in 1958. It then takes up two objections to this approach raised by Jürgen Habermas. The first maintains that balancing is both irrational and a danger for rights, depriving them of their normative power. The second is that balancing takes one out of the realm of right and wrong, correctness and incorrectness, and justification, and, thus, out of the realm of the law. The article attempts to counter these objections by showing that there exists a rational structure of balancing that can be made explicit by a “Law of Balancing” and a “Disproportionality Rule.” These rules show, first, that balancing is not a danger for rights but, on the contrary, a necessary means of lending them protection, and second, that balancing is not an alternative to argumentation but an indispensable form of rational practical discourse.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Christian Albrechts University, Germany

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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