The Ideological Origins of Deregulation

It is not difficult to identify the significant milestones in the history of deregulation in the United States. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw federal legislation deregulating vast swaths of the transportation sector—airlines, railroads, and trucking. During the same period, similar legislation took the initial steps toward deregulating the financial services industry. In the 1990s, Congress further deregulated financial services, relaxed regulation in the telecommunications industry, and passed legislation that laid the foundation for deregulation in the energy sector. The deregulatory policies embodied in these pieces of legislation were supported by—and often initiated by—presidents of both parties, and each was passed by large, bipartisan majorities in Congress. Victory, of course, has many parents, and scholars of deregulation have identified a myriad of factors that led to this burst of deregulatory activity. At the head of this list are a group of…

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