Congressional Maneuvering in the New Deal: The Regulatory Necessity of Radio, Changing Purpose, and the Circumvention of Police Powers

Blackington, Samuel, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Nicoletti, Cynthia, School of Law/History – Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia

The aim of this thesis is to deploy and develop a new conception of how constitutional interpretation changed in the 1930s, to account for the agency of individual and institutional actors other than the Supreme Court. The theory is that radio regulation was the product of three premises, the nature of radio and regulatory necessity, the intellectual shift in regulatory purpose, and changes within the broader and narrower conceptions of the Commerce clause, which were all recognized by Congress, outside the Supreme Court. Institutional figures reconceptualized the purpose of radio regulation to be for the public benefit first. In turn, the Congress of the United States relied on a new purpose of regulation and relied on a new interpretation of constitutional doctrine that was not explicitly and fully endorsed by the Supreme Court. By studying the intellectual history of radio regulation, as well as the case law surrounding the constitutional Commerce Clause doctrine, this thesis seeks to supplement existing scholarship on the so-called Constitutional Revolution that occurred during the New Deal. The significance of this thesis is in arguing that this existing legal history scholarship is incomplete in its focus, and rather should seek to incorporate the agency of individual and institutional actors, who had the ability to shape constitutional interpretation outside the Supreme Court, as the ultimate expositor of common law.

MA (Master of Arts)
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