The Unfulfilled Promise of the Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Annual Walter F. Murphy Lecture in American Constitutionalism

Date: 
Mon, 11/26/2018 - 4:30pm
Location: 
222 Bowen Hall
Event Category: 
Co-sponsored Event
Audience: 
Public

Richard EpsteinLaurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School 

This very special annual lecture celebrates the work of the late Walter F. Murphy, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus, Princeton University, and his dedication to excellence in the study of American and comparative constitutional law theory.  A decade after joining the Princeton faculty, Professor Murphy was named the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, succeeding Woodrow Wilson, Edward S. Corwin, and Alpheus T. Mason in one of the Nation's most prestigious Chairs.

The anti-discrimination laws were passed with great confidence in the 1960s and yet in the eyes of their intended beneficiaries, these programs have not achieved their initial promise, whether we speak about employment, education or housing. Most individuals think that the proper cure for the disappointment is to strengthen their enforcement. Richard Epstein argues that the basic mistake of these laws is that they all extended the anti-discrimination norms outside of areas of common carriers and public utilities where they operate as a counterweight to monopoly power. In most of these settings, the risk of monopoly is weak, but the dangers of excessive enforcement can often prove counterproductive. In some cases, the solution may well be to eliminate these statutes in connection with private institutions.  But even if that alternative proves infeasible or unacceptable, the relaxation of many key features of these laws, including most critically the application of disparate impact tests, would help improve opportunities across the board for all individuals.

Organized by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and funded by The Bouton Law Lecture Fund.

Epstein
Richard Epstein
Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School

Richard A. Epstein is the inaugural Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at NYU School of Law. He has served as the Peter and Kirstin Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution since 2000. Epstein is also the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1985 and has been a senior fellow of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago Division of Biological Sciences since 1983. He was a winner of the Bradley Prize in 2011. Epstein has written numerous articles on a wide range of legal and interdisciplinary subjects, as well as over 15 books; his most recent is The Classical Liberal Constitution: The Uncertain Quest for Limited Government (Harvard U. Press, 2014). He has also edited (with Catherine Sharkey) Cases and Materials on the Law of Torts (11th edition, 2016). He writes a weekly column for Defining Ideas and is a contributor to Ricochet.com and Forbes.com.