Sunday, November 9, 2014

Liberal Court Ruined The Right To Private Contracts

 This was a midterm paper for Vito at Brooklyn College this semester.

The landmark Supreme Court cases West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish and Lawrence v. Texas were both incorrectly decided. The West Coast Hotel case overruled Adkins v. Children's Hospital and ended the Lochner era. This court case ruled minimum wage is constitutional on the grounds that, like in Muller v. Oregon, private contracts can be regulated by the state because it protected the community, health and safety, and vulnerable groups. Muller v Oregon allowed regulation of women's work hours. Lawrence v. Texas ruled sodomy laws were unconstitutional based on the Fourteenth Amendment. The Renhnquist court was wrong for using the Fourteenth Amendment, because due process does not protect against states' sodomy laws. This is a situation that should be left up to the states because of the Tenth Amendment.

The Hughes court did not do well on this case. West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish's decision was based on Muller v. Oregon's precedent. The problem is Muller v. Oregon's decision is greatly flawed. Muller v. Oregon's decision is based on the state limiting the right to private contract based on "protection of the community, health and safety, and vulnerable groups." Where in the United States Constitution does it say this? The same thing with the Second Amendment, it specifically states "shall not infringe", yet people insist on restricting the right. How can you have private contracts if the government says who you can have that contract with? This right to privately contract is tied in with your right to liberty.            
The court ruled that regulating women's work hours is "protecting vulnerable groups." Well, today we know that women are equal to men and do not need to be protected because it "helps the community." Women are not a vulnerable group. Also, nowhere in the Constitution does it say those words. The Constitution was not created to protect the collective, but to protect individuals and the minority.
 
          

"If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again. You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That's flexibility." - Justice Scalia
So based on the fact that the Constitution does not ever state "protection of the community, health and safety, and vulnerable groups" and does not specifically allow the restriction of the right to private contract, Muller v. Oregon is null and void. Therefore, West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish just lost most grounding since it was based on the Muller v. Oregon case. The problem is that most courts do not want to overrule a previous case because that will lead to overruling of so many other cases that were based on its precedent, example here.

As you see during this court decision, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a very liberal, progressive President. He tried numerous times to pack the court and tried passing a court reform bill to weaken the say of older, anti-New Deal justices. This leads many to assume that the court decisions during FDR's time were strictly political. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt felt the government must be involved economically, which I highly disagree with. As a result of his views, he wanted to demand businesses pay people a certain amount. The only way this could happen was if the Supreme Court ruled in his favor to strike down the laws that stated against the fact. This was happening often around the country over the last 40 years before the 1930s, which was called the Lochner Era. Also, Chief Justice Hughes convinced Justice Roberts to vote in his favor. This was known as the "switch in time that saved nine." After Justice Roberts retired, he felt so bad about the court decision that he burned all records of his time as Justice and regretted the vote for the rest of his life. He knew that this case would set precedent for the future and would be difficult to overturn and would lead to more government intervention economically and will trump on individual rights. In a sense, it redefined the meaning of the Constitution.
       
In a sense, how can something be "private" if government is allowed to intervene. If the contract is within legal measures, why should the government get involved? If two people are contracting to sell drugs or to kill somebody, that is obviously illegal. But if somebody wants to employ somebody, they should be able to, of course if the job is legal. So if somebody agrees to work at a store for 40 hours a week at $5.00 an hour, what is wrong with that? The common argument is that people cannot survive on such low income. People try to argue against the Constitution by using morals and emotions. Most arguments that defend minimum wage are heavily flawed.
         
The free market has proved to be the best system in the world time after time. Allowing people, which specifically states this in the Constitution, to privately contract allows the free market to work properly. If people are working at a store for $5.00 an hour, that is their chose. The common argument is that people cannot live on that low wage. They need a "living wage." First thing's first. What is a "living wage"? It's a made up term, so it does not apply here, or anywhere. Secondly, all minimum wage jobs and low income jobs are simple jobs. Anybody can replace the worker, for example, at McDonalds. If McDonalds is paying their employees $5.00 an hour to flip burgers and take orders from customers, there shouldn't be a problem. But what if all the workers don't want to work for such a low income, then they demand a raise or they quit. McDonalds then easily hires more workers, because they are easily replaceable. But what if nobody works for them because $5.00 an hour is too low? Then McDonalds is forced to hire people for $6.00 an hour, or $7.00, whatever it takes to hire people to keep the business moving. We have seen this during the Henry Ford business days early in the 20th century. Ford set up specific nine to five work hour days to increase quality in productivity. It worked. He also raised his pay for the workers voluntarily. The free market works, it has been proven.
        
People must understand that they should not have a family if they are making such a low income. Basic level jobs are not careers. They are entry level jobs, mainly employed by college students or senior citizens to make some extra money, not to support a family! So government, like today, in response increases welfare and food stamps. As a result, a person in New York City can live very comfortably with a minimum wage job. You are better off today making around $24,000 a year instead of $40,000 because you get more benefits if you make less. So where is the incentive to work? Why work harder if all the things you need are given to you already? Extremely cheap housing, food stamps, medical coverage, all while working a minimum wage job. While the person working harder for a higher paid job, say around $45,000 annually, cannot afford such nice housing or medical coverage and make too much money to qualify for benefits. These are just some problems that are created by setting a minimum wage, the government responds to the effects of it wrongly.
         
Businesses and the economy are hurt by this as well. Forcing businesses to pay more than they can possibly afford limits their progress and expansion. Also, government responds by passing laws that involve healthcare, such as ObamaCare. ObamaCare, as we already see, hurts small business owners. Small businesses make up over 80% of all businesses in America, they need to be protected and allowing minimum wage and disregarding the Constitution, which was created to protect them and us individually, hurts this country.
        
The decision created a precedent that effected more than businesses and minimum wage. Allowing the state to regulate private contracts also allows for government to be involved in marriage, which leads to a very controversial topic today. The issue on same-sex marriage is the issue with re-defining marriage. Well, some believe, like me, that marriage, legally, is a contract. A contract that should be between two people, same or opposite sex, and government should not get too heavily involved. This would be possible because of the freedom to privately contract, but not after this court case decision. Now, government can regulate who you make contracts with, hence, regulating marriage. A state government can stop you from marrying, or creating a contract, with someone who is the same sex as you. I feel West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish is Pandora's Box for individual rights, especially when it comes to private contract. The Hughes court took a very liberal approach, with influence from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and did not follow the Constitution as it was intended for.
         

The Supreme Court ruled that state sodomy laws were unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas. The Rehnquist court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment protected sexual privacy, such as sodomy, in the private home through the substantive due process clause. Every person has equal protection under the law. That means, in the Fourteenth Amendment, that the government cannot discriminate anyone based on race or religion or anything when dealing with legality. A black man cannot be prosecuted just because he is black, or white men cannot have beneficial privileges while in court just because he is white. The intent at the time of the writing of this amendment, which as around 1870, did not deal with sexual privacy or same-sex sexual activity.
        
Nowhere in the United States Constitution does it talk about sexual privacy, or even privacy. So, according to the Tenth Amendment, anything not specified in the Constitution should be left to the states. So anything dealing with privacy can be legislated by each individual state. The Fourteenth Amendment does not protect against state laws dealing with things that are not in the Constitution.
        
The problem was, Justice O'Connor pointed this out in her concurring opinion that Texas' sodomy law only applied to same-sex participants. Opposite-sex participants were legally allowed to engage in sodomy and other sexual acts. She argued that the Fourteenth Amendment protects people, gay or straight, equally under the law. So it is not fair if opposite-sex couples can engage in sodomy but same-sex couples cannot.
         
Gay rights activists felt Lawrence v. Texas was a major victory.
This argument, equal protection under the law, is usually argued in favor of federally protecting same-sex marriage. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's concurring opinion would open the door to this argument being validated. Same-sex marriage is a state issue because marriage was never mentioned in the Constitution. Now people, like me, may not have a problem with same-sex marriage, but that vote and legislation should be left up to each individual state. Legally, as I believe, marriage is a contract. Religiously, marriage means something much more strict and sacred. But, because of the right to private contract, two consenting people should be able to contract with each other. But, because of the West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish case, government is now allowed to regulate private contracts. So government will always have a larger say in this matter. Government could still have regulations and laws involving marriage and law, but the parties who engage in marriage should be up to two individuals, ideally. But, at the very least, dealing with the decision of the court, same-sex marriage should be a strictly state issue.
         
The Fourteenth Amendment protects every citizen not only from the federal government but from each state government. That was the original intent of the amendment. For someone to argue and bring a case to the Supreme Court, the government must trump someone's rights. So the question is then brought, which right was infringed? When a man says that the government cannot ban sodomy, what right is he exercising? A man can say the government cannot pass legislation that bans someone from speaking in public. The court then would rule in his favor because the First Amendment protects that. Sodomy has no holding because nowhere in the Constitution does it mention sexual privacy or anything dealing with same-sex relations. Because sexual privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution, it is left to the states. That is why the descending opinion with Justice Scalia and Rehnquist is correct according to the Constitution and the intent behind the Fourteenth Amendment. The Constitution is a living document in the sense that it is able to be amended throughout time. It is not living in a way that it can be interpreted differently for new situations in the future. New situations should bring forth a new amendment if the majority agrees.