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Private Cops on the Fraud Beat: The Limits of American Business Self-Regulation,1895-1932

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  • Edward J. Balleisen

    () (Duke University Department of History)

Abstract

From the late 1890s through the 1920s, a new set of nonprofit, business-funded organizations spearheaded an American campaign against commercial duplicity. These new organizations shaped the legal terrain of fraud, built massive public-education campaigns, and created a private law-enforcement capacity to rival that of the federal government. Largely born out of a desire among business elites to fend off proposals for extensive regulatory oversight of commercial speech, the antifraud crusade grew into a social movement that was influenced by prevailing ideas about social hygiene and emerging techniques of private governance. This initiative highlighted some enduring strengths of business self-regulation, such as agility in responding to regulatory problems; it also revealed a weakness, which was the tendency to overlook deceptive marketing when practiced by firms that were members of the business establishment.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward J. Balleisen, 2009. "Private Cops on the Fraud Beat: The Limits of American Business Self-Regulation,1895-1932," Business History Review, Harvard Business School, vol. 83(1), pages 113-160, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:journl:2009q1balleisen.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. B├╝the Tim, 2010. "Private Regulation in the Global Economy: A (P)Review," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(3), pages 1-40, October.
    2. Edward J. Balleisen, 2017. "American Better Business Bureaus, the Truth-in-Advertising Movement, and the Complexities of Legitimizing Business Self-Regulation over the Long Term," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 5(1), pages 42-53.

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