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Federalization of the Mosquito: Structural Innovation in the New Deal Administrative State


Polly J. Price


Emory University School of Law


Emory Law Journal, Vol. 60, 2010
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-140
Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-92

Abstract:     
Malaria was a significant problem in the southern United States during the early decades of the twentieth century. Part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal focused on economic development of the South, with improvement of public health in that region as an integral part. This Article is a case study of increased federal public health efforts during the New Deal and World War II eras, which replaced some traditionally state and local areas of control. Efforts to "federalize" the mosquito encountered significant limitations, and never accomplished primary federal responsibility for the eradication of malaria. One federal agency in particular - the Office of Malaria Control in War Areas - institutionalized the federal response to malaria in the South during World War II. This assertion of wartime jurisdiction maintained only nominally the primacy of state authority.

The New Deal administrative state saw structural experimentation and innovation at a grand level; this Article’s study of federal efforts to combat malaria in the southern United States provides a good example. In one decade, federal efforts ranged from Works Progress Administration employment, experiments with scientific expertise within the Tennessee Valley Authority, federal intervention in civilian areas as a war strength rationale, and malaria control by federal appropriation. The most significant step resulted from reorganization of the New Deal administrative state under the Federal Security Agency, an independent agency of the U.S. government established pursuant to the Reorganization Act of 1939.

From a federalization perspective, a critical point is that the federal government initiated a malaria eradication effort with broad jurisdiction that helped reshape public perception of the federal government’s responsibilities. It did so under a "national security" mandate that blurred the distinction between domestic and international security, with an effect on the federal government’s regulatory power. But the federal government then withdrew from this wartime assertion of jurisdiction, leaving public health federalism largely unchanged.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 52

Keywords: public health, federalism, malaria, regulation, Office of Malaria Control in War Areas, Federal Security Agency, DDT, New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt, federalization, nuisance, abatement, U.S. Public Health Service, state health agencies, state health boards, yellow fever, quarantine

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Date posted: January 9, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Price, Polly J., Federalization of the Mosquito: Structural Innovation in the New Deal Administrative State. Emory Law Journal, Vol. 60, 2010; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-140; Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-92. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1736026

Contact Information

Polly J. Price (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-7869 (Phone)
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