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The Progressive Assault on Laissez Faire: Robert Hale and the First Law and Economics Movement

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674775275
ISBN-10: 0674775279
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Early in this century, orthodox statesmen and judges believed that government policies such as progressive taxation and regulation of labor contracts were coercive interferences with natural, and thus also Constitutional, rights of property and liberty. A small band of progressive lawyers and economists arose to challenge that orthodoxy. One of its leaders was Robert Lee Hale, who developed an especially piercing and sophisticated critique of libertarian ideas. In this path-breaking book--rigorous, clear-eyed, marvelously revealing--Barbara Fried unearths for a modern readership the legal-economic thought not only of Hale but of an entire generation of his progressive contemporaries, along with its roots in classical and institutional political economy. She dusts off and makes freshly available a critique of laissez-faire that is in many ways still as powerful--and, lamentably, as necessary--today as it was sixty to seventy years ago. Here are meticulous scholarship, complete mastery of both the underlying structure and the details of legal-economic thought, and above all a gift for explaining complicated ideas and bringing obscure historical figures into brilliant present focus. The Progressive Assault on Laissez-Faire is both an intellectual treasure and a real public service.
--Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School

By far the best work on the legal realist movement's attack on 'laissez-faire,' and one of the best demolitions, in law or political theory, of that contested concept. Not only an important contribution to the history of legal thought, this book stands on its own as a critique of the basic distinction between 'government' and 'market.'
--Cass R. Sunstein, Law School, University of Chicago

About the Author

Barbara H. Fried is Professor of Law at Stanford University Law School.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674775279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674775275
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,671,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While I certainly cannot agree that this book, or its principal subject, Robert Hale, present anything close to "one of the best demolitions" of laissez-faire, this book is quite intriguing; and I think that anyone who is in the business of defending the concepts of laissez-faire or present-day libertarianism would do well to ponder upon Hale's arguments. This is not to say that a full understanding of Hale is essential (it may even be stretching it to say useful) for a complete defense of laissez-faire, but he certainly does present an intellectual and philisophical challenge for it's adherants. Fried does an excellent job of documenting and reiterating Hale's approach to legal theory and the early 20th century thought underlying it - but in the end, we are really only left with Hale's analysis which, while intriguing and ingenious, is little more than an intellectual puzzle the ramifications of which even Fried (an evident admirer) expresses some skepticism.
Hale's attempts to defeat the concept of laissez-faire (linguistically) put him in the position of beating up on traditionalists like Thomas Nixon Carver, without giving us any practical reason as to why they were right or wrong. Even if we were to take Hale's central argument as correct, (he essentially contests the idea of a minimalist state as conceptually incoherent) Hale gives litte to no insight as to why the "coercion" he advocates is preferable to the "coercion" of the marketplace.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an essential book for understanding the major changes in legal theory of the progressive era. The change from classical liberalism to modern progressive liberalism was profound, and required the abolition of a number of myths presumed by law and the judiciary. These myths have since been resurrected by the libertarians, and it is enlightening to see the satisfying reasons why they were rejected so long ago. It's easy to tell how threatened libertarians feel about this by the vehemence of their attacks.
College-level reading, and not for those with short attention spans.
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By A Customer on March 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Asking for Hale's rebuttal to Hayek is foolish because (a) it is anacronistic and (b) Hale was writing in the field of law, while Hayek was writing in economics. The introduction and an excerpt (which you can see here on Amazon) describe the laissez-faire rhetoric that Hale was refuting.
Hale clearly explains why laissez-faire is wrong about liberty: all property is a grant of unaccountable private power from the state. Thus, it doesn't matter if liberty is infringed by the state retaining the power or private owners abusing the power (as in the cases of monopolies, public utilities, and opposition to unions.) Those were Hale's primary interests throughout his career. And interestingly, they are also precisely places where Hayek's social calculation arguments fail.
Hale (and Fried) don't bother explaining why they thought their alternative was better: the progressive case was being widely made elsewhere at the time. Hale's contribution was to specialize in kicking out the supports of laissez-faire so that progressive arguments could compete fairly with extremist capitalist arguments.
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Format: Hardcover
Similar in content to "Mein Kempf" and "The Communist Manifesto"
If you are communist you will like this book.
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