Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
If you want to catch a glimpse of what the US would look like under President Scott Walker, you need to turn back the clock to one of the darkest periods in 20th century US history -- the Lochner Era.
Here's a little history lesson just in case you don't know what I'm talking about.
In the early 1900s, a bakery owner named Joseph Lochner sued the state of New York over its Bakeshop Act, which limited the number of hours bakery employees could work to 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week.
Lochner lost in the case in the New York Court of Appeals, but when he took it to the Supreme Court in 1905, he got the result he wanted.
In a close 5-4 decision, the justices struck down the Bakeshop Act, citing Lochner's right under the 14th Amendment to run his business without "state interference."
Apparently, the Bakeshop Act violated that most fundamental of liberties -- the right of employers to work their employees to death.
No one knew so at the time, but this ended being a big turning point in US history. From when the Lochner case was decided in 1905 until the mid-1930s, the Supreme Court would go on all-out rampage against workers' rights.
Over the next few decades it struck down, among other things, child labor laws, minimum wage laws and laws banning "yellow dog contracts" -- contracts that forced workers to say that they wouldn't join a union.
The guiding principle in most or all of these decisions was the idea that the government's power to protect workers was limited to protecting their "health and safety."
Under this line of thinking, things like minimum wage laws were struck down because they went beyond protecting "health and safety" and tried to actually raise the living standards of US workers.
This, the Court said, was a violation of the constitutional "right to contract."
The Lochner Era, as the period governed by this legal philosophy is called, lasted until 1937, when the Supreme Court ruled in the case of West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish that the government did, in fact, have the power to do things like raise the minimum wage and ban child labor.
There is, by the way, no "right to contract" in the Constitution.
The Supreme Court made it up, just like it made up corporate personhood and money as speech.
Today, most legal scholars place the Lochner case, as well as the anti-worker decisions that followed it, among the worst decisions in Supreme Court history.
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