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The Determinants of Progressive Era Reform: The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906

40 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2004  

Marc T. Law

University of Vermont - Department of Economics

Gary D. Libecap

University of California, Santa Barbara - Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management; University of Arizona - Karl Eller Center; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: December 2004

Abstract

We examine three theories of Progressive Era regulation: public interest, industry capture, and information manipulation by the federal bureaucracy and muckraking press. Based on analysis of qualitative legislative histories and econometric evidence, we argue that the adoption of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act was due to all three factors. Select producer groups sought regulation to tilt the competitive playing field to their advantage. Progressive reform interests desired regulation to reduce uncertainty about food and drug quality. Additionally, rent-seeking by the muckraking press and its bureaucratic allies played a key role in the timing of the legislation. We also find that because the interests behind regulation could not shape the enforcing agency or the legal environment in which enforcement took place, these groups did not ultimately benefit from regulation in the ways originally anticipated.

Suggested Citation

Law, Marc T. and Libecap, Gary D., The Determinants of Progressive Era Reform: The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (December 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w10984. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=637781

Marc T. Law

University of Vermont - Department of Economics ( email )

Old Mill Building
94 University Place
Burlington, VT 05405-0114
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Gary D. Libecap (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara - Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management ( email )

4670 Physical Sciences North
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131
United States
805-893-8611 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.esm.ucsb.edu/people/usernew.asp?user=glibecap

University of Arizona - Karl Eller Center ( email )

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United States
520-621-4821 (Phone)
520-626-5269 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bpa.arizona.edu/~libecap

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

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