sudy aid #6 - WRA 115 Study aid for reading assignment#6...

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WRA 115 Study aid for reading assignment #6 for A People's History of the Supreme Court . Substantive Due Process, Liberty of Contract, and Social Darwinism In the late 1800s, working people organized for the first time against what they thought to be the abuses of big business and began electing state governments that were sympathetic to the working class. A depression that started in 1873 shifted public opinion enough that the usual tactics of corporate control were not effective, and legislatures passed laws to limit monopolies and to restrict the abilities of employers to exploit workers who had no choice but to work on whatever terms employers required. John Marshall and his Supreme Court had established the precedent that the Contract Clause of the Constitution forbade the government from controlling the economy. The extremes of wealth and poverty that characterized the American economy in the late nineteenth century weakened the public support for laissez faire economics and allowed for challenges to Supreme Court precedents. The doctrines used is these legal challenges included the "police powers" doctrine and "procedural due process." In order to understand the changes that took place at this time, it is necessary to understand some of the basic legal theory that grounds Western law. When courts were faced with the question of how much control government could have over the economy, they looked to an ancient, common law justification of governmental power that holds that governments exist in order to keep social order and ensure the welfare of the community. This is called the police powers doctrine. The use of governmental power is legitimate when the government “polices” the society in order to protect order and ensure the general welfare. Those who argued that the government should have the ability to limit the power of America’s wealthy class did so with the claim that it was a legitimate exercise of police power because, they argued, the communal good was being harmed in order to serve the interests of the few who controlled the nation's economy. As the courts began to use the police powers doctrine to overrule the Contract Clause, conservative legal experts introduced new legal doctrines that gave courts new and stronger grounds on which to strike down laws that were restricting corporate control of the economy. Pro-business arguments had always held that business was a realm of private property and they cited Constitutional protections as support. But in the late 19 th century, the courts began ruling that the common good required some restriction on private property. People who wanted relief for the suffering majority in the late 19 th century cited the centuries old common law understanding that when private business enters the public domain, it becomes public and falls under the police powers of government. In other words, when someone’s personal business has a
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2009 for the course WRA 115 taught by Professor Lackey during the Spring '08 term at Michigan State University.

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sudy aid #6 - WRA 115 Study aid for reading assignment#6...

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