Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lochner and the Good Old Days
Mike Rappaport

Can you imagine the New York Tims or the Washington Post praising the Lochner decision (the now "infamous" decision holding that a maximum hours law for bakers in New York violated "the constitutional principle of liberty of contract").  Well, at the turn of the century they did.  David Bernstein writes:

The New York Times praised the Supreme Court for refusing to enforce "any contracts which may have been made between the demagogues in the Legislature and the ignoramuses among the labor leaders in bringing to naught their combined machinations." The Washington Post initially noted that the opinion allowed for reasonable police power regulation. The Post, defending the Court from its critics, later added that the liberty of contract between employer and employee protected in Lochner "is a principle older than the Constitution or the statutes. Its maintenance is indispensable to the preservation of liberty."

People often refer to the old New York Times of the 1970s as a golden age, but I don't remember it that way.  But the Times and Post of 1905 -- that was a golden age!

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Mike Rappaport