Unheeded words of wisdom


Author: Timothy Sandefur

In a recent blog post I mentioned that liberals, no less than conservatives, ought to be very wary of expanding government power under the commerce clause. It turns out that Walter Lippmann (no conservative, he) made the same point eloquently at the very time that the Supreme Court was expanding that power:

The so-called liberals who today think that Federalism was invented by the Liberty League and is defended only by hirelings of the DuPonts did not have the same appetite for centralized government when they ran afoul of it in wartime and during the reign of the Anti-Saloon League. Nor will they have the same enthusiasm for it the next time they see a Congress which does not think as they do, a Congress, perhaps, which decides to regulate labor by imposing compulsory service in labor camps as a means of preparedness for war and a way of teaching men to take orders promptly. The current enthusiasms of the liberals for a centralized government of unlimited powers arise from the happy idea that only liberals will run that government…. [I]f they think there will never be a reaction again, their optimism is far greater than their good sense. They will make the greatest mistake of their lives if, while they are in power, they destroy the defenses they will desperately need when in the course of human events the people turn once more the other way.

Walter Lippmann, syndicated newspaper column, Feb. 4, 1937, quoted in Arthur Ekirch, Jr., Ideologies And Utopias: The Impact of The New Deal on American Thought 201-02 (1969).