To an imagination of any scope the most far-reaching form of power is not money, it is the command of ideas. If you want great examples read Mr. Leslie Stephen’s “History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century,” and see how a hundred years after his death the abstract speculations of Descartes had become a practical force controlling the conduct of men. Read the works of the great German jurists, and see how much more the world is governed today by Kant than by Bonaparte.— Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457, 478 (1897).
Justice Holmes is certainly correct. Ideas have consequences. Worldviews matter. Of this, Holmes was certainly a master, and in the realm of America law, his influence has been such that his name deserves to be mentioned with the Descartes, Kant, Darwin, and others whose ideas have greatly impacted the course of history. Unfortunately, Holmes’s ideas have tended to the impoverishment of American law rather than its improvement.