What is Freedom of Association, and What is its Denial?


Larry Alexander

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Freedom of association, as I understand it, refers to the liberty a person possesses to enter into relationships with others - for any and all purposes, for a momentary or long-term duration, by contract, consent, or acquiescence. It likewise refers to the liberty to refuse to enter into such relationships or to terminate them when not otherwise compelled by one's voluntary assumption of an obligation to maintain the relationship. Freedom of association thus is a quite capacious liberty.

I am going to approach the topic of freedom of association by attempting to illustrate what its denial would look like in each of several domains. I shall then ask why a government might seek to deny it and then, in the article's final section, on what grounds such a denial would violate the rights with respect to freedom of association of those affected.