The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

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Prompt: Write an essay about Lochner v. New York in the style of David Bernstein

Answer: Lochner v. New York is a landmark case that was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1905. The case involved a challenge to a New York state law that regulated the working hours of bakers. The law was challenged on the grounds that it violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects individuals' rights to liberty and property.

In his opinion, Justice Rufus Peckham, writing for the majority, held that the law was unconstitutional because it interfered with the right to contract between an employer and an employee. According to Peckham, the law violated the "liberty of contract" that was protected by the Due Process Clause.

The decision in Lochner v. New York has been widely criticized by legal scholars and historians. Many have argued that the Court's decision was based on a narrow and misguided interpretation of the Due Process Clause, and that it was driven by a laissez-faire ideology that was out of step with the realities of the time.

For example, David Bernstein, a legal scholar and historian, has argued that the Court's decision in Lochner was based on a flawed and outdated understanding of the Constitution. According to Bernstein, the Court's emphasis on "liberty of contract" ignored the broader social and economic context of the time, and failed to account for the ways in which the law could have protected workers from exploitation and abuse.

Furthermore, Bernstein has argued that the Court's decision in Lochner had far-reaching and negative consequences for workers and society. By striking down laws that regulated working conditions, the Court effectively gave employers the ability to impose dangerous and unhealthy conditions on their employees. This, in turn, contributed to the rise of sweatshops and other forms of exploitation, and helped to fuel the growth of labor unions and other forms of worker organization.

In conclusion, Lochner v. New York was a misguided and harmful decision that ignored the realities of the time and failed to protect the rights and interests of workers. Its legacy continues to be felt today, as debates over the role of government in regulating the economy and protecting workers' rights continue to shape our society and legal system.