A presentation about deregulation and American government was given by Princeton lecturer Eduardo Canedo on Jan. 26 in the Agriculture building. The goal was to shed light on a subject that he said is an integral part of society although it is rarely understood.
Deregulation can be defined as the lifting of government control over industries, companies, basic goods and the like. It can affect anything from what job a person holds to the food they eat. For college students, deregulation and regulation can control seat availability for classes, student and parent loans and credit cards. It controls how much people pay for gas and the kind of meat Oscar Meyer can put in its hot dogs.
Brought to Cal Poly by the College of Liberal Arts and the history department, Canedo was asked to speak about deregulation’s importance to society and how it affects everyone.
Canedo, who has a Ph.D in History from Columbia University and is a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows, began his lecture by saying that this is a very exciting time to discuss deregulation in America.
Canedo stated that conventional economic models are defunct regarding the crisis. It’s lax regulation, he said, contributed so highly to corporate oppression in the past. As a society though, taking a look at the present-day problems from a historical standpoint is important.
“American capitalism is in disarray, it’s taken a serious blow. The political edifice is beginning to crumble,” Canedo said.
He broke up the lecture into three main topics: The history of regulation and deregulation in America, why it’s come about and some preliminary prospects for regulatory reform.
Canedo outlined how regulation has been a growing trend since colonial times, during which early American government regulated the prices that merchants could justly charge consumers.
Canedo marked examples like the slave trade in the south during the 18th century, the creation of the Federal Trade Commission in 1914, the 1920s, the Progressive Era (when people fought against the emergence of corporate monopolies such as the railroads), and when the government and economy began to grow once again.
The New Deal Era of the 30s and 40s through the post-war America of the 50s gave way to the formation of a number of influential, regulatory bodies including the Federal Power Commission and the Small Business Administration, showing the strengthening and expansion of governmental regulation.
The rising trend from then on, until Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” movement (1965), sought to alleviate many of the major issues of the 60s incuding delinquency, Medicare, urban renewal and most of all, Vietnam, according to Canedo.
During this time, middle class consumers became more aware of the power they held as the majority. With a more obvious line between class powers came higher expectations from consumers. The number of consumer activist groups grew drastically as more people promoted better quality with lower prices and rallied for the deregulation of airlines to remove price restrictions and allow a freer expanse of flight routes.
Following this, Canedo said, came liberal regulation as the divide began to sharpen between the two major parties in the United States.
On the right were the neoclassical economists like George Stigler and Milton Friedman, and on the left were corporate liberalists like Ralph Nader. These “New Left” scholars didn’t seek to reform corporate regulation but promoted it by demanding stricter rules for big businesses.
Then came the Watergate scandal under former president Richard Nixon, which gave U.S. citizens more reason to analyze government power.
“Watergate gave rise to new politicians: neo-liberals,” Canedo said. “The popularity rate of government among the American people dropped from 76 percent to 36 during Vietnam, and then again to 25 percent after Watergate.”
After Nixon resigned, and Gerald R. Ford’s term ended, Jimmy Carter was elected to office. This “recent history” as Canedo phrased it, is some of the most important insight we have to look at in order to think about today’s issues, such as health care and tax reform.
By analyzing what has happened a relatively short time ago, Canedo hopes to shed more light on what the underlying issues are and derive more educated judgments, to help solve the issues.
Between the presidency of Jimmy Carter and today, the power shift from party to party has changed as have the approaches to regulation and deregulation by the government.
Though American government has always been largely bipartisan, Canedo gave examples of how both parties have been able to find common ground on many controversial topics like securing social security and energy efficiency, to make well-thought-out laws that work effectively.
It was not until the very end of Bill Clinton’s presidency that the United States saw a huge divide between the parties, Canedo said. Under George W. Bush’s two-term reign, the gap began to grow and has led the country into an age of butting heads on topics anywhere from health care reform to the War on Terrorism to global warming.
The two ruling parties not agreeing on policy is a huge factor in the economic crisis in the United States, he said.
Cal Poly history professor James Tejani, who invited Canedo here to speak, said that students should be aware of issues such as these, because it directly and primarily affects their futures.
“What students learn here (at Cal Poly) are the things they will take with them into the future,” Tejani said.
Vincent Luschinger, a mechanical engineering junior said that although it’s hard to wrap his brain around the topic sometimes, he understands that the legislations made today are the laws he’s going to have to deal with in the future.
“I’m not always interested in politics, to be honest. But I know that government regulation can be good and bad,” he said. “It keeps chemicals from being dumped into the water we drink, but it also controls the types of jobs I’ll be able to get once I graduate.”