The Classical Limits to Police Power: Adam Smith and the Economic Foundations of the Slaughterhouse Dissents
30 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 5, 2016
The paper examines the influence of classical economics on an important episode in the American 19th-century jurisprudence on business regulation, the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873. Law historians know well that the dissents penned in that occasion by Supreme Court Justices Field and Bradley lay down the fundamental doctrines of the later Lochner era of laissez faire constitutionalism. The paper argues that these dissents were inspired by Adam Smith’s system of natural liberty and, in particular, by his views about the regulation of negative externalities and the undesirability of government-granted monopolies. The Smithian influence emerges even more clearly when the outstanding briefs presented by counsel for the plaintiffs John A. Campbell are also taken into account.
Keywords: Classical economics, Adam Smith, American legal history, American constitutional law, Slaughterhouse Cases, Lochner era
JEL Classification: B12, K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation