Under common law, private property and liberty of contract were long protected by the courts — not entirely, but sufficiently to enable a free society to emerge in America. In the late 19th century, however, and for some 40 years thereafter, that protection intensified, yet it was still not an era of unbridled “laissez faire constitutionalism” that later critics of the era would label it, pointing to the Supreme Court’s famous Lochner
decision of 1905. Rather, early 20th-century Progressives were making steady inroads on the liberty of contract in particular. And with the New Deal, that liberty, especially concerning economic affairs, almost disappeared, and continues even today as a “second-class” right. In a penetrating new Cato Institute book, constitutional scholar David Mayer subtly explores the complex history of liberty of contract, exploding current myths and shedding new light on this fundamental right. Please join us for a discussion of this important issue.