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AT&T's Antigovernment Lesson-Drawing in the Political Economy of Networks, 1905–20


  • Richard B. Kielbowicz


Many Progressive Era reformers, lawmakers, and economists believed that free market competition failed to maximize the public benefits of telecommunication networks. When proposals to place the nation's telecommunication system under the post office gained currency, AT&T responded with its Brief of Arguments against Public Ownership (1913–17). Resembling a loose-leaf service for lawyers, the Brief furnished opinion leaders with more than three hundred items of evidence, some drawn from economists, about the failings of government-run enterprises. To impart lessons about the consequences of nationalizing telecommunication, AT&T assembled evidence from three domains, most notably foreign nations' experience with government ventures. Analyzing the Brief reveals how AT&T structured and popularized arguments that justified the anomalous place of telecommunication networks in American political economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard B. Kielbowicz, 2009. "AT&T's Antigovernment Lesson-Drawing in the Political Economy of Networks, 1905–20," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 41(4), pages 673-708, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:41:y:2009:i:4:p:673-708

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    AT&T; progressive era;


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