2007, Fri, Sep 21

Rights and Values in the Transatlantic Transfer

Bruce Ackerman and Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff

The Congress Hall originally opened on 19 September 1957. This Cold War-era gift from the USA to West Berlin became a symbol not just of the transatlantic modern age, but of shared ideals of democracy and freedom. Fifty years later, particularly as a result of the Second Iraq War and the internment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, German-American relations have become strained. Nonetheless, with both countries facing the same international conflicts and such global challenges as climate change, joint solutions are called for. The transatlantic relationship is further tested as countries of the former periphery move closer to the political and economic centre of events. Prominent American and European thinkers will discuss the potentials in this relationship and seek to develop perspectives for understanding. German Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will open the series of talks.


For centuries in Continental Europe the notion of "freedom through the state" has held sway, with the state seen as guarantor of the conditions underlying individual rights. In contrast, the US-American concept proclaims the "liberty of the individual vis-à-vis the state" – from the freedom of religion to the right to keep and bear arms. Are these two views irreconcilable, or can benefits be achieved through the mutual exchange of ideas? In his book "Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism", constitutional law scholar Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School poses alternatives to the strategy of continually issuing restrictive laws. Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff, German Federal Constitutional Court justice since 2002, has repeatedly broken with the Court's tradition of speaking with a single voice. In casting dissenting votes, she makes explicit reference to the transparency with which the US Supreme Court reaches decisions.

Moderated by Ulrich K. Preuß (legal scholar, Berlin)



On Bruce Ackerman

Bruce Ackerman is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, and the author of fifteen books that have had a broad influence on political philosophy, constitutional law, and public policy. His most recent books are The Failure of the Founding Fathers (2005) and Before the Next Attack (2006). He also writes for the general public, contributing frequently to The New York Times, Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, and has served, without charge, as a lawyer on matters of public importance. He was a lead witness for President Clinton before the House Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Hearings, and a principal spokesman for Al Gore before the Florida legislature during the election crisis of 2000. Professor Ackerman is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a Commander of the French Order of Merit, and the recipient of the American Philosophical Society’s Henry Phillips Prize for lifetime achievement in Jurisprudence.


On Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff

Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff is a professor of public law and director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Studies at Bielefeld University. In 2002 Ms. Lübbe-Wolff was nominated as Justice of the Federal Constitutional Court. In 2000 she received the highest German research prize: the Leibniz Prize. Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff is also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (German Section) and sits on the editorial board of the international law journal, Zeitschrift für Ausländerrecht.


The Transatlantic Dialogues are put on jointly by the House of World Cultures, the Federal Agency for Civic Education, and the American Academy in Berlin.