This chapter explains the history of regulation in the United States. Since its founding, the United States has had alternating periods in which government was perceived as an essential partner in building a good society and periods in which government was seen as a hindrance. Each cycle lasts about a generation, and the latest antigovernment, neoliberal period is coming to a close. By way of example, the early 19th-century Mercantilist period witnessed the construction of the nation's basic economic infrastructure; the Populist/Progressive period at the end of the 19th century saw the establishment of the modern administrative state with the creation of the government institutions needed to combat concentrated corporate and industrial power; and the 20th-century's New Deal/Great Society era expanded economic and democratic participation for more and more citizens. Interspersed with those pro-government generations were three laissez-faire periods that experienced growing economic inequalities and democratic declines.
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