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Any effort to project the vectors of development in the law affecting consumer financial services for the 1980s must take into account the sources from which the legal ground rules will emanate. Those sources are in one sense bifurcated-i.e., the states have long had a significant role in regulating consumer credit and related consumer transactions, and, since 1968, the federal government has been substantially and increasingly involved in standard setting for consumer financial transactions.

At these two levels of government there is further fragmentation of the lawmaking function. Each of the fifty states, and countless local government entities, enact laws without reference to the lawmaking in neighboring jurisdictions or in Washington; attempts to generate uniform state laws have had limited success. At the federal level, it is tempting to think that congressional legislation is perforce of uniform applicability across the nation, and that friction between federal and state initiatives (posed in terms of the preemption of state and local laws by federal standards) can be kept to a minimum. Yet a cursory examination reveals that standards explicitly set by Congress are barely the tip of the federal lawmaking iceberg. The most voluminous federal regulations are generated from federal administrative agencies, among whom there is as much balkanization as among the states.

This article reviews these complex sources of law, and suggests the possible courses of evolution over the next decade.



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