Reining in the Administrative State: World War Ii and the Decline of Expert Administration

Total War and the Law: The American Home Front in World War II 185 (Daniel R. Ernst & Victor Jew eds., 2002)

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 2002-01

Posted: 7 Nov 2014

Date Written: January 1, 2002

Abstract

This article argues that World War II had a profound effect on the relationship between courts and the administrative state in the United States. Between 1940 and 1950, administrative law changed dramatically. During the 1930s, it allowed administrative agencies to function with a great deal of autonomy. By 1950, the judiciary had asserted considerably more control over the administrative state. There is a direct link between the United States’ involvement in World War II and this change. In particular, three aspects of the wartime experience caused changes in American political culture that, in turn, contributed to this transformation. First, America’s encounter with totalitarianism – both abroad and on the home front – diminished people’s trust in the administrative state, which they began to associate with the unchecked power of fascism. Second, the track record of the wartime agencies – particularly the War Production Board and the Office of Price Administration – did little to assure Americans that administrative power could be used in a manner that was both efficient and consistent with democratic principles. Finally, the prosperity the War created caused one-time advocates of the administrative state to question the value of economic planning and to refocus their attention on curing economic maladjustments through Keynesian fiscal policy rather than through administrative control of economic actors. Thus, by the end of the War there were few advocates of extreme administrative autonomy left. Ideological, political, and economic changes dictated that the judiciary be put firmly in control of the administrative state.

Suggested Citation

Schiller, Reuel, Reining in the Administrative State: World War Ii and the Decline of Expert Administration (January 1, 2002). Total War and the Law: The American Home Front in World War II 185 (Daniel R. Ernst & Victor Jew eds., 2002), UC Hastings Research Paper No. 2002-01, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2519771

Reuel Schiller (Contact Author)

UC Hastings Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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