April 2007 Vol. 105 No. 6 THE REVIEW

Epstein: How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution

Michael Allan Wolf

Looking Backward:
Richard Epstein Ponders the "Progressive" Peril

How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution. By Richard A. Epstein. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute. 2006. Pp. xiii, 156. $15.95.

In the 1888 novel Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy dreamed up a twentieth century America that was a socialist utopia, a vision invoked four years later by the conservative Justice David J. Brewer as a warning against government regulation. In How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution, Richard Epstein, looking back at the twentieth century through an interpretive lens much more similar to Brewer’s than Bellamy’s, sees and bemoans the growth of a dominant big government of which the novelist could only dream. Epstein pulls no punches in his attack on those he deems responsible for the shift in the American polity from private to public control, asserting that the “Progressives . . . were determined that their vision of the managed economy should take precedence in all areas of life,” and that they “and their modern defenders have to live with the stark truth that the noblest innovations of the Progressive Era were its greatest failures.”

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