Regulatory State

At the end of the 19th century, the industrial revolution had led to major economic changes in the United States. Lower transportation costs and access to better communication improved business dramatically, making firms more successful. Workers’ tasks were divided, making them more productive. And machines improved the efficiency by which factory work was done.

Yet these economic changes came head to head with a political environment that sought to protect workers and the workplace, efforts seen to slow the rapid movement toward growth. The principles of Adam Smith and his contemporaries advocated for less government, not more. This is evident in the first case you should read this week—Lochner v. New York.

As you read the Lochner v. New York case, think about the balance between the private sector and the government. What are the interests of each of those parties and what should the balance between the two be? Then, read the West Coast Hotel v. Parrish case and think about what changed during the 31 years in between.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Think about the idea of business as property and how valid that concept is in law.
  • Consider the changes that took place when Franklin Roosevelt was elected or when Sinclair released his book. What impact did these events, combined with World War II and the 1929 stock market crash, do to the public’s support for free markets?

With these thoughts in mind:

Providea brief statement, well-supported with citations, about the state of the debate today on free markets. Explain whether the fight between free markets and government regulation been successfully resolved. Discuss whether you foresee it becoming an issue or question in electoral debates or court cases in the near future. If so, how? Provide a current example to support your response.

Support your response using the Learning Resources and other scholarly resources.


  • Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905).
  • West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1936).
  • AT&T v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011).

Optional Resources


  • PBS Commanding Heights. (2003). Chapter 2: The old order fails [Video file].

    Note: This media focuses on the importance of regulatory state in current times.


  • Federal Election Commission: Public Funding of Presidential Elections

  • U.S. Electoral College: Responsibilities of the States in the Presidential Election

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