The Progressive Mind

“There is a growing feeling that the individualistic theory has been pushed with too much stress upon the dry logic of its doctrines and too little regard for their practical operation from the humanitarian point of view.  We are discovering that we cannot always regulate our economic and social relations by scientific formulae, because a good many people perversely insist upon being fed and clothed and comforted by the practical rule of thumb rather than by the exact rules of logic.”

Who said this?  Not Holmes or Brandeis.  It was Senator George Sutherland in 1913, arguing in favor of workers’ compensation laws.  One of the issues that I want to explore in my research on the Justice is how and why he went from being a moderate progressive in the Senate to a conservative on the Court.

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2 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    Perhaps as a politician needing votes Sutherland was a moderate progressive. On workers’ comp, his position may have been based upon special circumstances of workers in Utah. Perhaps his shift from the Mormon Church led to his progressiveness, at least temporarily. But on the Court, his situation was different, with a lifetime appointment. Perhaps his progressiveness was merely a matter of convenience.

  2. Marc O. DeGirolami says:

    The trajectory you describe may be real, but without more explanation about what the terms progressive and conservative mean in this context, the quote is ambiguous. It may plausibly be read as expressing a conservative sentiment.