Robert F. Nagel


I start from the rather obvious proposition that in recent years the American public has placed a high value on the right of privacy. This general commitment to privacy was what kept Robert Bork, despite his qualifications, off the Supreme Court, and more recently it was what kept William Clinton, despite his behavior, in the White House. Bork's nomination was a threat to the constitutional right to use contraceptives and to choose abortion, while the impeachment charges against Clinton were a threat to the moral distinction between public political life and private sexual behavior. The power that the idea of privacy holds in contemporary society is, as everyone knows, evident in many other events and trends as well. It fuels the dramatic changes now underway in the cultural and legal status of homosexuality. It underlies challenges to ingrained assumptions about appropriate conduct within the military. Of course, it also sustains the right-to-die movement.

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