Handbook on the Politics of Regulation
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Handbook on the Politics of Regulation

Edited by David Levi-Faur

This unique Handbook offers the most up-to-date and comprehensive, state-of-the-art reviews of the politics of regulation. It presents and discusses the core theories and concepts of regulation in response to the rise of the regulatory state and regulatory capitalism, and in the context of the ‘golden age of regulation’. Its eleven sections include forty-eight chapters covering issues as diverse and varied as: theories of regulation; historical perspectives on regulation; regulation of old and new media; risk regulation, enforcement and compliance; better regulation; civil regulation; European regulatory governance; and global regulation. As a whole, it provides an essential point of reference for all those working on the political, social, and economic aspects of regulation.
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Chapter 8: The Rise of the American Regulatory State: A View from the Progressive Era

Marc T. Law and Sukkoo Kim


Marc T. Law and Sukkoo Kim Despite the United States being the world’s largest free market economy, government regulation of economic activity is a pervasive feature of the American economy of the early twenty-first century. The foods Americans eat, the cars they drive, the medicines they take, and the financial institutions from which they borrow and to which they lend are all subject to some kind of regulation. While governments from the colonial times played important roles in shaping the allocation of resources, for much of America’s history regulation was local and relied on the courts. During the Progressive Era (circa 1880–1920), however, the scale and scope of government regulations grew dramatically. State and federal regulatory agencies became the dominant actors in the regulation of economic activities in America. A key question for social science is why regulation of economic activity exists and why it has grown so dramatically over time. Why and how did the scale and scope of regulation expand? What political and economic forces contributed to the rise to the modern regulatory state, especially during the Progressive Era, the period when centralized state and federal governments became the nexus of regulatory activity? For economists there are two standard theories of regulation: public interest and capture. The traditional public interest theory argues that government regulation arose to combat market failures, whereas the more recent capture theory claims that producers sought regulation to restrain competition. But what factors account for the major change and growth of regulation during...

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