The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law

About the Book

For many people, owning a business is the very definition of the American dream. But in today’s America, attaining such a dream is made increasingly difficult by laws and regulations that interfere with entrepreneurs and their right to earn a living. Author Timothy Sandefur has had a part in defending many hardworking American citizens against the unfair and often ludicrous restrictions imposed on them by government. These rules and regulations allow politicians and lobbyists to play favorites, rewrite contracts, file frivolous lawsuits, seize private property, and manipulate private choices.

This book charts the history of the fundamental human right of economic liberty—a right that the Founding Fathers considered to be a fundamental part of “the pursuit of happiness.” In fact, that right was protected by English judges for more than 150 years before U.S. independence, and American courts continued this vigilance during the country’s early years and through the Civil War Amendments that expanded protection to all Americans, regardless of race. The book then charts the changes that occurred when Progressive‐​era judges began to tear away those protections and concludes with an account of current controversies involving abusive licensing laws, freedom of speech in advertising, rules that override private property rights without just compensation, and more.

The Right to Earn a Living explains how Americans can restore the Constitution’s long‐​neglected protections for the right that Supreme Court Justice William Douglas once called “the most precious liberty that man possesses.”

About the Author

TIMOTHY SANDEFUR is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, and the author of Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st‐​Century America.

What Others Have Said

“Government today puts so many burdens and restrictions on entrepreneurs and business owners that we’re squandering our most precious resource: the entrepreneurial spirit and drive of our people. We aren’t just killing the golden goose—we’re taking steps to ensure that the golden goose is never born to begin with. Timothy Sandefur’s book explains how this problem began, and what steps we can take to ensure that we all enjoy the freedom to pursue the American Dream.”
—Dick Armey, Former House Majority Leader; Chairman, Freedomworks

“Sandefur’s comprehensive and thoughtful book provides a wealth of insights into why constitutional protection for economic liberty is so important and how the Supreme Court destroyed that protection. This book makes the legal and moral case for economic liberty in provocative ways that lawyers and nonlawyers will enjoy, regardless of their philosophical predispositions.”
—William Mellor, President and General Counsel, Institute for Justice

“The right to earn an honest living is something that we should all be able to take for granted. But anyone who reads Timothy Sandefur’s carefully executed book will realize that an elaborate set of unprincipled taxes, regulations, and licensing requirements compromise that right at every turn. Sandefur expertly weaves together history and anecdote with constitutional theory to produce a book that rightly urges all courts, the Supreme Court not excepted, to protect ordinary citizens against the routine depredations of unprincipled special‐​interest legislation. Now that the revolt against big government is in full swing, Sandefur’s book is a timely and informative contribution to this ongoing political and intellectual struggle.”
—Richard A. Epstein, University of Chicago

“Timothy Sandefur has authored a provocative defense of economic liberty and a wide‐​ranging assault on legal doctrines that impede the right to earn a living. His analysis is grounded on the conviction that the right to pursue a trade is an aspect of one’s constitutionally protected liberty.”

—James W. Ely, Jr., Vanderbilt University Law School, Read the full review