The Constitution and Economic Liberty
James W. Ely Jr.
Vanderbilt University - Law School
Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Forthcoming
Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 11-19
Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-22
This essay addresses the relationship between the Constitution and Bill of Rights and the concept of economic liberty. It calls into question the famous quip of Justice Holmes in Lochner v. New York (1905) that the Constitution was not intended “to embody a particular economic theory.” The essay contends that the framers of the Constitution clearly envisioned a constitutional order grounded on private property and a market economy. To this end, many provisions of the Constitution pertain to property interests and economic activity. It concludes that, although the Constitution does not endorse a laissez-faire regime, Holmes was wrong to suggest that the Constitution was entirely neutral with respect to economic policy. In fact, the framers favored a free market and sought to protect property and contractual rights.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 15
Keywords: Laissez-Faire, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Property Rights, Charles A. Beard, Civic Republicanism, Adam Smith, Free Markets, Contracts, Lochner v. New York, Constitution, Economic Liberty
Date posted: April 27, 2011