IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/pra/mprapa/39245.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

British economists on competition policy (1890-1920)

Author

Listed:
  • Giocoli, Nicola

Abstract

Most late 19th-century US economists gave a rather cool welcome to the Sherman Act (1890) and, though less harshly, to the Clayton and FTC Acts (1914). A large literature has identified several explanations for this surprising attitude, calling into play the relation between big business and competition, a non-neoclassical notion of competition and a weak understanding of anti-competitive practices. Much less investigated is the reaction of British economists to the passing of antitrust statutes in the U.S. What we know is simply that none of them (including the top dog, Alfred Marshall) championed the adoption of a law-based competition policy during the three decades (1890-1920) of most intense antitrust debates in the U.S. The position of three prominent British economists will be examined in this paper: H.S. Foxwell, D.H. MacGregor, and, of course, Alfred Marshall – the latter in two moments at the extremes of our period, 1890 and 1919. It will turn out that they all shared with their American colleagues a theoretical and operational skepticism about the government and judiciary interference with the free working of markets. They also believed that British industrial structure and business habits were so different from those in the U.S. that the urge of interfering with markets in order to preserve competition was much weaker. Among the paper's insights is that Marshall’s key concept of “defending a competitor’s right to compete” foreran the modern characterization of the goal of competition policy as "the protection of the competitive process". Yet Marshall developed his concept without making recourse to the post-1930s neoclassical notion of competition as a static market structure which lies at the foundation of most contemporary antitrust policy: a useful lesson from the history of economic thought for those IO economists who still claim that the classical dynamic view of competition is unsuited as a foundation for an effective competition policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Giocoli, Nicola, 2012. "British economists on competition policy (1890-1920)," MPRA Paper 39245, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39245
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/39245/1/MPRA_paper_39245.pdf
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jaques Kerstenetzky, 2010. "Alfred Marshall on big business," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(3), pages 569-586.
    2. DiLorenzo, Thomas J & High, Jack C, 1988. "Antitrust and Competition, Historically Considered," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(3), pages 423-435, July.
    3. Fiona Scott Morton, 1997. "Entry and Predation: British Shipping Cartels 1879-1929," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(4), pages 679-724, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. In Antitrust We (Do Not) Trust
      by Chris Colvin in NEP-HIS blog on 2012-07-17 22:44:37

    More about this item

    Keywords

    British economists; antitrust law; Sherman Act; Alfred Marshall;

    JEL classification:

    • B21 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Microeconomics
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L40 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39245. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/vfmunde.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.