Americans have short memories which are becoming ever shorter in our media-saturated Information Age. Consider crime and the now prevalent expectation that the federal government should take the lead in combating it. Whence did this expectation arise? Many older Americans, if asked this question, would probably mention the growth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover. Somewhat younger Americans would probably cite the role of national law enforcement agencies in implementing the civil rights laws of the 1960s. A few citizens might recall public concern about labor racketeering and organized crime dating back to the Kefauver hearing of the 1950s.
It is one of the merits of James D. Calder's book that he takes us on a journey deeper into our past and thereby provides fresh perspective on the frenetic present. While all complicated social policies and institutional arrangements have many roots, he contends that the decisive moment in the development of comprehensive federal crime control was the period between 1929 and 1933, the presidency of Herbert Hoover.
For those conditioned to think of the Hoover era as a time of economic adversity and political stagnation, Professor Calder's findings will come as a surprise. But, he argues persuasively, these very years witnessed a confluence of three factors that combined to produce a break with the past. The first was the proliferating stress on the judicial system, stress associated mostly with the enforcement (and non-enforcement) of Prohibition. The second was the emergence of new perspectives in law, sociology, and criminology, and the rise of