How Van Halen Explains the U.S. Constitution’s Third Amendment



How are the big-hair rock band’s contractual prohibitions against brown M&M’s similar to the Third Amendment’s limitations on the quartering of soldiers? Professor Tom W. Bell of Chapman University School of Law explains:

In the grand struggle to protect individual rights against government trespass, the Third Amendment plays a role akin to the provision, in Van Halen’s standard performance contract, requiring a bowl of M&Ms in band’s hospitality room with all the brown ones removed. Though sometimes touted as an example of rock star excess, the clause in fact served to test whether the band’s contractual partner, providing the concert venue, had read the terms of their agreement. Finding brown M&Ms backstage warned Van Halen to look out for more serious breaches, such as in the contract’s provisions on wiring, security, and ticketing.

Quartering serves as a forbidden M&M in the Constitution’s bowl of rights and violations of the Third Amendment signal more serious problems. Consider that the Third Amendment saw violation during the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, a 1979 New York prison guard strike, and Hurricane Katrina. Consider, and worry.

More of Prof. Bell’s insights on the Third Amendment can be found in his forthcoming paper, “‘Property’ in the Constitution: The View from the Third Amendment” (the abstract is posted here). For more on M&M’s and Van Halen, go here.

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