The War against Regulation

From Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush

Phillip J. Cooper

Battered by our economy and disappointed by our government's role in that battering, we might be tempted to point the finger of blame at whoever's currently on the hot seat in front of us. But, as Phillip Cooper shows, we must widen our vision to take in the long history behind this dismal state of affairs. By doing so, it becomes clear that our present circumstances are in many ways the predictable outcome of a several-decades-long war against government regulation and its potential to protect and improve our lives.

Cooper explains how the war against regulation has been conducted both from within and outside the government over the past thirty years. Chronicling its major battles from the Jimmy Carter years through the presidency of George W. Bush, he shows that it is a war—waged by Democrats and Republicans alike—that has been fought in high places but whose casualties include children, senior citizens, the infirm, and millions of families who have lost their homes and retirement savings.

“Cooper, an accomplished scholar of the executive branch of the U.S. government and its interaction with the courts, gives a no-holds-barred account of the presidential and U.S. Supreme Court's efforts from 1976 to 2008 to dismantle a considerable portion of the administrative state. . . . This is a very well done, thoughtful survey of a very complicated, controversial topic. . . . [Cooper] has given us a work appropriate for advanced classes on government and modern U.S. political history courses., as well as for those who have an interest in the subject. at the very least, he has given us food for thought about the development of recent debates about the interaction of policy and the requirements of law, the shaping of our public conversation about the functioning of our government, and important assumptions in our national life that require a reexamination.

—H-Net Reviews

“An important and timely contribution to the literature on deregulation. Particularly noteworthy is the analysis of the role of the White House—from Carter to Bush—in enabling a movement that has led to such disastrous economic and political consequences for the nation.”

—Susan J. Tolchin, coauthor of Dismantling America: The Rush to Deregulate

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Cooper tells how Carter, praised for environmental regulation, worked to deregulate airlines, trucking, and banks; how Reagan undertook administrative rather than legislative measures against regulation—most of which weren't understood or even known by the public; and how George H.W. Bush continued the fight with the Quayle Commission. He describes Bill Clinton's commitment to fighting regulation despite having campaigned against his Republican predecessors' policies, then describes the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of George W. Bush as he sought to gut regulatory agencies entirely. He also devotes an entire chapter to parallel developments in the Supreme Court that substantially advanced the deregulation agenda during this era.

Cooper contends that regulation, as one of a number of policy tools available to our leaders, is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Excessive deregulation-as opposed to regulatory reform, can present considerable peril, as current events clearly show. By considering key issues important to a more effective understanding and use of regulation in the future, The War against Regulation makes a vital case for restoring debate about regulation's rightful role within the republic and offers hope that a better understanding of that role can help lift us out of our current crisis.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series