Enlightenment ideals relating to individual and group autonomy versus state power have long shaped socioeconomic ordering in the Western world. This article explores how competing Enlightenment ideologies influenced the development of two different accounting-based regulatory models in the United States, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Both commissions experimented with both models with different outcomes. The ICC, formed in 1887, ultimately followed a Hamiltonian approach involving direct intervention of the federal government to regulate the monopoly power of railroads. Almost half of a century later, after the 1929 Crash, the SEC was formed to re-establish public confidence in the nation’s financial markets. That resulted in reducing investors’ risk perceptions by assuring greater transactional transparency and probity. The SEC settled upon a Jeffersonian approach, which supported the delegation of responsibility for the application of accounting knowledge in regulation to professional groups rather than government officials. This approach characterized the emergent bureaucracy of the United States’ fast-expanding national executive state.
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