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Freedom to HarmThe Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival$
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Thomas O. McGarity

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780300141245

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300141245.001.0001

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Freedom Reined: The Progressive Era Through the Public Interest Era

Freedom Reined: The Progressive Era Through the Public Interest Era

(p.18) 2 Freedom Reined: The Progressive Era Through the Public Interest Era
Freedom to Harm

Thomas O. McGarity

Yale University Press

This chapter explains that the statutory changes of the Progressive, New Deal, and Public Interest Eras came in response to perceived crises in the political economy as manifested in media reports of widespread corporate abuses. Guided by the insights of Progressive Era legal realists, state supreme courts abandoned many Laissez Faire Era legal doctrines that limited corporate liability. Cumulatively, the statutes imposed broad obligations on companies to pay far more attention to the impact of their products and activities on their consumers, workers, neighbors, and the environment than they had in the past. Although the changes mandated by the new statutes rarely demanded more than what was already technologically feasible, they greatly improved the lives of most Americans.

Keywords:   statutory changes, Progressive Era, New Deal, Public Interest Eras, political economy, corporate abuses, Laissez Faire Era

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