A historical look at the FTC reveals that it spent decades doing lame work. Just consider the years of “trade practice conferences.” Commissioners would fly all over the country, giving their blessing to self-regulatory agreements on the most trivial of topics. One commissioner famously raved about his post at the FTC to Philip Elman because it allowed him to travel in style and do no work. Looking back at the 1930 and 1940s, we see the FTC spending a lot of time on things like trade practice conferences for the “toilet brush manufacturing industry,” the “house dress and wash frock manufacturing industry,” and for the “shrinkage of woven yard goods industry.” An uncontroversial FTC is a lame one.
Consider how different today’s FTC is. It is focused on cutting-edge technologies and their application to subtly invade technology. It’s a different, more controversial, yet in-tune body that is striving to live up to its mandate.