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Theories of legitimate regulation have emphasized the role of governments either in fixing market failures to promote greater efficiency, or in restricting the efficient functioning of markets in order to pursue public welfare goals. In either case, features of markets serve to justify regulatory intervention. For certain areas of regulation, its function must be understood as making markets legitimate. Based on a comparative historical analysis of consumer lending in the United States and France, the author argues that national differences in the regulation of consumer credit had their roots in the historical conditions by which the small loan sector came to be legitimized.
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