Wednesday, 11 May 2011

In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918-1938

In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918-1938
Publisher: Bucknell University Press | ISBN: 0838753256 | edition 2002 | PDF | 284 pages | 16 mb

Butler Shaffer's scholarly interpretation of the political attitudes and actions most prevalent among America's business leaders in the two critical decades following World War I is uniquely satisfying. The author, a professor of law, reveals himself to be well grounded also in economics, history, and philosophy, as well as possessed of an insider's feel for the political agnosticism of large corporations and industry associations. Given his talents and his apt approach to the subject, Shaffer has made an important contribution to the literature. The 1920s were marked by a political tug-of-war over business policy. On one side were corporate leadersand career politicians, such as Herbert Hooverwho saw in the War Industries Board the precise mechanism they craved to control competition and to force "order" on the economy. On the other side were advocates not of laissez-faire, but of so-called self-regulation. Trade association "codes of ethics," developed by most industries during or after the war, were intended to achieve identical goals through voluntary restraints on competition. The Harding and Coolidge administrations tended to be very receptive to the latter approach. The now-predictable result, of course, was that without enforcement authority, industry leaders spent their energy excoriating the "ten-percenters," who refused to cooperate, or trying to outlaw one example after another of "unfair competition." Almost every imaginable method of competition was attacked during the 1920s.

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