From Classical to Progressive Liberalism: Ideological Development and the Origins of the Administrative State

42 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2021

See all articles by David Foster

David Foster

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Joseph Warren

University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, Students

Date Written: June 10, 2021

Abstract

Early support for expert policymaking through administrative agencies was rooted in concerns over political power. In a context of formal universal male suffrage, late 19th-century liberals (typically well-educated, urban professionals) opposed policies to regulate business out of fear of working-class radicalism. Yet by the 1910s, liberals supported redistributive policies---through administrative agencies. We use a formal model to show how potential policy feedback effects made an anti-business coalition between liberals and populists unachievable, and how, by diminishing feedback effects, agencies facilitated a successful progressive-liberal coalition. Because administrative agencies guaranteed a central policymaking role for credentialed urban professionals, liberals could support farmers and industrial workers against big business while no longer fearing the rising power of their coalition partners. In this way, the strategic dilemma created by a changing distribution of power among social groups explains the development of broad political support for bureaucratic agencies.

Keywords: bureaucracy, formal model, American political development, policy feedback, shifting power, ideology

Suggested Citation

Foster, David and Warren, Joseph, From Classical to Progressive Liberalism: Ideological Development and the Origins of the Administrative State (June 10, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3864614 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3864614

David Foster (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Joseph Warren

University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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