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Saturday, October 08, 2005

 

Oppression

Merriam-Webster defines oppression as an, "unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power." This is pretty interesting because we can look at it from and economic point of view as well as a humanistic point of view.
I think It's more relevant to look at oppression from the definition of it being unjust for an economic discussion of it.
The Constitution of the United States sets out to define what is just and unjust. It's our framework for interpreting laws, and influencing policy...ideally.There are many instances in past supreme court cases where a person could argue that an unjust excercise of authority happened, and where the supreme court upheld that excercise. Economic liberty is provided for in the 14th amendment. In Muller v. State of Oregon in 1908, the supreme court regulated the hours a woman could work in laundrys. In other cases, the court upheld statutes that hurt competition, as in the case of McCray v. U.S. in 1904. There are also instances where public policy has created an unjust use of power. Some examples are education subsidies, CAFE standards, and even some of the taxes we have now.
If economic liberty is provided for in the constitution, then any act which infringes upon that right could theoretically be called oppression. It's a strong word, but Webster's definition is precisely related to economics, and the policies that we can analyze with efficiency analysis. Any oppressive policy would not be efficient. As we've already discussed in class, markets are better left on thier own, than interfered with by imposing undue subsidies (when there is no positive externality), or regulating industry in ways the constitution does not explicitly provide for. Oppression all of a sudden becomes a large part of our discussion of efficiency analysis, and the issue of public policy.

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