Claremont Review of Books Discussion of Lochner

Two issues ago, the Claremont Review of Books published Richard Epstein’s review of my book, Rehabilitating Lochner. In the next issue, two conservative readers criticized Epstein’s review for endorsing Lochner. Claremont asked Epstein and me to respond. Claremont has now posted the letters to the editor and the responses here.

My response focuses not on whether Lochner was right or wrong (I take no position on the issue), but on taking issue with some of the statements and assumptions made in the letters–statements and assumptions that reflect longstanding conservative propaganda points in debates over the Fourteenth Amendment, but that rely on myths inherited from Progressive jurists.

I conclude that

there are quite reasonable arguments that liberty of contract, per se, is not protected by the Due Process Clause. Even if it is so protected, one can reasonably argue that the Lochner Court should have followed Justice Harlan’s dissent and exhibited greater deference to the judgment of the New York legislature. For conservative constitutionalists to make such determinations, however, requires a careful study of the relevant historical and legal materials free from the baggage of the tendentious, politically motivated accounts of Progressives, New Dealers, and their successors on the Left and, surprisingly, the Right.

Claremont’s website doesn’t have a comment feature, but you can contribute to the debate in the comments below.