One of the most sweeping yet little noted changes that has occurred in American life over the past several decades, and especially within the last couple of years, has been the ever rightward drift of the nation's highest courts on economic issues. Nathan Newman recently noted that in recent rulings by the Supreme Court, "in almost every case where corporations challenged state regulations or taxing powers this term, the corporations won and state power lost." Yet few people seem to have taken notice.
The scant attention these rulings have received is in stark contrast to their potentially dramatic effects. Take, for example, last year's ruling in the case of Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS. By a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned a 1911 precedent and, in the words of a front page article in today's Wall Street Journal, ruled that manufacturers could "set minimum prices on their products and force retailers to refrain from discounting."
The result? According to the Journal, retailers say that many manufacturers "now require them to abide by minimum-pricing pacts, or risk having their supplies cut off." And, as is to be expected when a regulatory regime is replaced by a tort regime, there are lawsuits galore; it's yet another example how, in Tom Geoghegan's words, "the right made America a lawsuit nation."