If you’re looking for the enduring legacy of famed Yale law professor Charles Reich, I argue in a new Cato piece, it’s not so much to be found in his bestselling daydream of liberation The Greening of America as in his hugely influential work on government benefits as the “new property” of the administrative state. Excerpt:
Part of its ingenuity was in couching in seemingly sober and cautious terms an idea whose implications (especially welfare rights) were otherwise controversial, so as to appeal to moderates and also to the sorts of thinkers who would soon be termed libertarian. (The New York Times, in its obituary, says that “The New Property” article “defended an individual’s right to privacy and autonomy against government prerogative,” which sounds either Cato-ish or positively anodyne.) …
Reich’s remedies did not really operate to curtail big government, while they did advance the power and role within it of lawyers and those comfortable with legal process. In that way too, Reich outran his peers at capturing the spirit of his era.
Included: a discussion of the seeming, but in the end illusory, parallels between Reich’s early-1960s writing interests and those of economist Milton Friedman. More: anecdotes of Reich at Yale from Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, via Josh Blackman. And a personal anecdote: classmates told me about this guy who’d roam the Old Campus engaging freshmen in long conversations, who was this famous author — but when he talked with my entryway-mates I happened not to be there, so I missed him.