Popular Media

Humility, Institutional Constraints and Economic Rigor: Limiting the FTC’s Discretion

In 1914, Congress gave the FTC sweeping jurisdiction and broad powers to enforce flexible rules, to ensure that it would have the ability to serve as the national regulator of trade and business. Much, perhaps even the great majority, of what the FTC does is uncontroversial and is widely supported, even by critics of the regulatory state. However, both Congress and the courts have expressed concern about how the FTC has used its considerable discretion in some areas. Now, as the agency approaches its 100th anniversary, the FTC, courts, and Congress face a series of decisions about how to apply or constrain that discretion. These questions will become especially pressing as the FTC uses its authority in new ways, expands its authority into new areas, or gains new authority from Congress (such as over data security or privacy).