Class Warfare Blog

September 10, 2012

I Wonder How He Would Fair on Today’s Supreme Court?

Louis Brandeis (1856–1941) was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939.

According to Wikipedia “as Justice William O. Douglas wrote, ‘Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . . [and] the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court.’ He was eventually confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 47 to 22 on June 1, 1916, (21 Republican Senators and one Democratic Senator (Francis G. Newlands of Nevada) voted against his nomination) and became one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the high court. His opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the “greatest defenses” of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court.”

Some Brandeis quotes (the emphases are mine):

“We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
As quoted by Raymond Lonergan in Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American (1941), p. 42.

“What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice.”
“True Amercianism” (1915).

Strong, responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labor bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labor contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organized and that their organizations must be recognized by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace.
Reported in Osmond Kessler Fraenkel, Clarence Martin Lewis, The Curse of Bigness: Miscellaneous Papers of Louis D. Brandeis (1965), p. 43.

“The prevalence of the corporation in America has led men of this generation to act, at times, as if the privilege of doing business in corporate form were inherent in the citizen; and has led them to accept the evils attendant upon the free and unrestricted use of the corporate mechanism as if these evils were the inescapable price of civilized life, and, hence to be borne with resignation.
Dissent, Liggett Co. v. Lee, 288 U.S. 517 (1933).

“Through size, corporations, once merely an efficient tool employed by individuals in the conduct of private business have become an institution—an institution which has brought such concentration of economic power that so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state. The typical business corporation of the last century, owned by a small group of individuals, managed by their owners, and limited in size by their private wealth, is being supplanted by huge concerns in which the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands of employees and the property of tens of hundreds of thousands of investors are subjected, through the corporate mechanism, to the control of a few men. Ownership has been separated from control; and this separation has removed many of the checks which formerly operated to curb the misuse of wealth and power. And, as ownership of the shares is becoming continually more dispersed, the power which formerly accompanied ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few… [and] coincident with the growth of these giant corporations, there has occurred a marked concentration of individual wealth; and that the resulting disparity in incomes is a major cause of the existing depression.
Dissent, Liggett Co. v. Lee, 288 U.S. 517 (1933), at 565-67.

In the field of modern business, so rich in opportunity for the exercise of man’s finest and most varied mental faculties and moral qualities, mere money-making cannot be regarded as the legitimate end. Neither can mere growth of bulk or power be admitted as a worthy ambition. Nor can a man nobly mindful of his serious responsibilities to society view business as a game; since with the conduct of business human happiness or misery is inextricably interwoven.
“Business — The New Profession”, La Follette’s Weekly Magazine, Volume 4, No. 47 (November 23, 1912), p. 7.

I wonder whether Justice Brandeis would even be confirmed were he available for nomination, so “radical” his thinking. He must have been a socialist; yes, that’s it, he was a socialist!

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