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Abstract

For nearly two centuries, the U.S. Constitution through the dormant Commerce Clause has protected the American common market from protectionist commercial stale regulations and taxes. During the past two terms, however, the U.S. Supreme Court created a new exception to the dormant Commerce Clause for protectionist state and local taxes and regulations that favor public rather than private entities. In this Article, we describe this “New Protectionism” and argue that the Court's embrace of it is profoundly misguided. As we document, there is no material difference, economically or constitutionally, between public protectionism and private protectionism. As illustrated by the variety of ways in which government and private enterprise interact, there is no coherent distinction between public and private activities, and ensuing efforts to draw such a line will only serve to embroil the courts in tasks for which it is ill suited. Worse, this new exception only encourages stale and focal governments to engage in protectionism in a variety of contexts, such as education and local economic development, in which the dangers to national economic union are paramount. Coupled with the Court's recently declared unwillingness to subject nondiscriminatory regulations and loses to minimal judicial scrutiny, this endorsement of public protectionism threatens to emasculate the constitutional protections for the American common market and should therefore be rethought by the Court or legislatively superseded by Congress. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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