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Private Enterprise, Public Good? Communications Deregulation as a National Political Issue, 1839-1851

John, Richard R.

Building on recent scholarship on social relationships and cultural norms, this essay shows how the study of national political issues can raise larger questions about American public life. In particular, it reveals that, even in the supposed heyday of laissez-faire, private enterprise remained a contested ideal. Not until the 1840s would public figures begin even to acknowledge the possibility that large-scale, nationwide enterprises, such as the postal system or the telegraph network, could be coordinated by institutions other than the federal government. The significance of this perceptual shift is often overlooked.

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Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic
University of North Carolina Press

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August 1, 2018