In Illiberal Reformers, Thomas Leonard reexamines the economic progressives whose ideas and reform agenda underwrote the Progressive Era dismantling of laissez-faire and the creation of the regulatory welfare state, which, they believed, would humanize and rationalize industrial capitalism. But not for all. Academic social scientists such as Richard T. Ely, John R. Commons, and Edward A. Ross, together with their reform allies in social work, charity, journalism, and law, played a pivotal role in establishing minimum-wage and maximum-hours laws, workmen's compensation, antitrust regulation, and other hallmarks of the regulatory welfare state. But even as they offered uplift to some, economic progressives advocated exclusion for others, and did both in the name of progress. Leonard meticulously reconstructs the influence of Darwinism, racial science, and eugenics on scholars and activists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, revealing a reform community deeply ambivalent about America's poor. Illiberal Reformers shows that the intellectual champions of the regulatory welfare state proposed using it not to help those they portrayed as hereditary inferiors but to exclude them.
"Excellent."--Tyler Cowen, "Marginal Revolution"
"Explosively brilliant."--Jeffrey Tucker, Foundation for Economic Education
"[A] brief, well written book."--Herbert Hovenkamp, "The New Rambler"
"[A] deft analysis. . . . [I]nsightful."--Amity Shlaes, "Wall Street Journal"
""Illiberal Reformers" is the perfect title for this slim but vital account of the perils of intellectual arrogance in dealing with explosive social issues."--David Oshinksy, "New York Times Book Review"
"Superb."--Damon Root, Reason.com
"Elegant and persuasive."--Deirdre McCloskey, "Reason"
""Illiberal Reformers" is a great achievement and an important contribution to the revisionist historical literature."--Steven Hayward, "National Review"
""Illiberal Reformers" is a downright frightening tale of how intellectual arrogance and a belief in one's own superiority leads to callous disregard for individual rights and dignity. Budding social engineers, whether the social justice warriors of the left or the theocratic conservatives of the right, should take note of this past and seriously reckon with it as they grope for state power to implement their messianic visions of the common good. But somehow I have a feeling they'll be too thoroughly convinced of their own moral rectitude to take seriously the lessons of the Progressive Era. Cautionary tales have a way of missing those who need them most."--Matthew Harwood, "American Conservative"