Vanderbilt Law Review


John W. Wade

First Page



In years past, many intellectuals adhered to a theory of laissez faire. They believed that the way to maintain our economic system in good health was to keep our government and laws from interfering with its natural working. In those days, judges did not make law; they discovered through legal reasoning what the law was and what it had always been. In both fields the theory fell into decline and disfavor. As Justice Cardozo put it, the concept of laissez faire in law went the way of laissez faire in economics. Another theory, of more ancient origin, is that of determinism. In the realms of philosophy and theology, it became very deep and abstruse. In the realm of history, it has been used to explain the rise and fall of nations. In the realm of economics, it led to the doctrines of marxism. Writers predicting the impending decline of America seem to be reviving ideas of determinism and giving them immediate and controlling application. More than that, a large number of college teachers in the social sciences today seem to be filled with deterministic ideas. According to them, a society and its condition are controlled by the inherited or acquired characteristics of its people, or by the climatic or topographical conditions of its environment, or by something else which the people themselves are unable to alter. The nature of the government,the substance of the laws, the efforts of officials and individuals are not only not particularly helpful, but they are actually useless--or powerless--in altering our predestined course. A college student who has been embued with these ideas can either become complacent and not care, or become completely frustrated. And that frustration may well culminate in an attempt to tear down the whole system to permit a fresh start.