Laissez-Faire and Liberty: A Re-Evaluation of the Meaning and Origins Of Laissez-Faire Constitutionalism
Until recently, historians of American constitutionalism agreed that, except for the infamous Dred Scott decision, the most unfortunate decisions of the Supreme Court were those that incorporated the notion of laissez-faire into the Constitution in the late nineteenth century. These decisions permitted the Court to frustrate efforts to secure a more just economic order in the United States until the 1930s. The intellectual foundations of laissez-faire constitutionalism have been so alien to most legal scholars since the 1930s (and equally unintelligible to many even earlier) that they have found it difficult to believe these decisions were the result of efforts to enforce âneutralâ principles of constitutional law, to utilize the terms of Herbert Wechsler's famous analysis. They could not conceive of the Court's rhetoric about liberty and due process as anything but cant, a subterfuge designed to camouflage other purposes.