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Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State$
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Samuel DeCanio

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198782

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198782.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State

Samuel DeCanio

Yale University Press

This book examines the regulatory state, a specific type of state authority that initially emerged in the late nineteenth century, and its ramifications for American politics. In particular, it considers the implications of high levels of voter ignorance for democratic politics and the autonomy of modern states as well as the role of political and media elites in the creation of the American state's bureaucratic regulatory authority. Focusing on the period 1860s–1890s, the book shows that this bureaucratic regulatory authority can be traced to the Treasury Department and the Interstate Commerce Commission. It also proposes a theory of the state that challenges widespread assumptions regarding the nature of political power in modern democracies. To support its case, the book explores the impact of conflicts over the gold standard on party ideology and state formation, along with the politics of free silver and inflationary demands for the free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 1. Finally, it discusses the influence of railroad regulation on state formation.

Keywords:   regulatory state, state authority, voter ignorance, democratic politics, elites, Interstate Commerce Commission, political power, gold standard, state formation, railroad regulation

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