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Savoring his landslide election, Warren G. Harding used his Inaugural Address to set an agenda for the coming decade. He surveyed the state of the nation, and pronounced that "our supreme task" would be "the resumption of our onward, normal way." The country would have to strain to reinhabit a way of life that it had heretofore merely taken for granted. "After the great storm," Harding remarked, "we must strive for normalcy to reach stability."

The disruption of the normal was most immediately attributable to World War I. War mobilization entailed "the most sweeping extension of national power experienced by the country up to that time." The federal government took control of the operations of the nation's railroads, its telegraphs and telephones, and its shipping industries. It assumed authority to regulate the production and prices of food and fuel. It actively intervened to shape the priorities of the wartime economy. It instituted sharply progressive income taxes. It established national labor policies and agencies. It imposed national prohibition. Nothing like this explosion of federal regulatory power had ever happened before.

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