Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lindsay on Shugerman and Lassez-Faire Constitutionalism

Matthew J. Lindsay, University of Baltimore School of Law, has posted In Search of “Laissez-Faire Constitutionalism,” which appeared in the Harvard Law Review Forum 123 (March 2010). Here is the abstract:
This article is a response to Professor Jed Shugerman’s Economic Crisis and the Rise of Judicial Elections and Judicial Review, HARVARD LAW REVIEW (2010). Professor Shugerman argues that the widespread adoption of judicial elections in the 1850’s and the embrace by the first generation of elected judges of countermajoritaran rationales for judicial review helped to effect a transition from the active, industry-building state of the early nineteenth century to the "laissez-faire constitutionalism" of the Lochner era. This response argues that Professor Shugerman overstates the causal relationship between the elected judiciary’s robust constitutional defense of "vested rights" and the iconic, if unrepresentative, "substantive due process" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If we are to draw a line of historical causation between the mid-century vested rights decisions and the so-called "laissez-faire constitutionalism" of the Lochner era, it must necessarily run through the watershed historical events of slave emancipation and the industrialization of labor, as well as the transformative constitutional changes set in motion by the Reconstruction amendmnets. To the exent that Lochner-era courts did constitutionalize economic liberty in a manner that warrants the label "laissez-faire constitutionalism," they were inspired less by the "Jacksonian" vested rights jurisprudence that preceded the Civil War than by the constitutional and industrial revolutions that followed it.

1 comment:

Jed Shugerman said...

I basically agree with Matthew's bottom line, which is that the "constitutional and industrial revolutions" of the late 19th century played a more direct role in the rise of the Lochner Court, and that we should not overstate how prevalent laissez-faire jurisprudence was in that era. I think our differences are more a matter of emphasis. I contend that anti-class-legislation justifications were a building block laissez-faire ideology, and the anti-class impulses in the American Revolutions of 1848 and in vested rights doctrine establishes one pillar for the development of laissez-faire constitutionalism. I agree with Matthew that there are many other pillars and historical forces, too. My own bottom line here is that Matthew's critique is astute and very helpful as I am revising these arguments for the book.