Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER 31: PUBLIC POLICY IN RESPECT TO MONOPOLY - Economics, vol. 2: Modern Economic Problems
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CHAPTER 31: PUBLIC POLICY IN RESPECT TO MONOPOLY - Frank A. Fetter, Economics, vol. 2: Modern Economic Problems 
Economics, vol. 2: Modern Economic Problems, 2nd edition, revised (New York: The Century Co., 1923).
Part of: Economics, 2 vols.
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PUBLIC POLICY IN RESPECT TO MONOPOLY
§ 1. Moral judgments of competition and monopoly. § 2. Public character of private trade. § 3. Evil economic effects of monopolistic price § 4. Common law on restraint of trade. § 5. Growing disapproval of combination. § 6. Competition sometimes favored regardless of results. § 7. Increasing regard for results of competition. § 8. Common-law remedy for monopoly ineffective. § 9. Federal legislation against monopoly. § 10. Policy of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law. § 11. Policy of monopoly accepted and regulated. § 12. Field of its application. § 13. The industrial trust,—a natural evolution? § 14. Artificial versus natural growth. § 15. Kinds of unfair practices. § 16. Growing conception of fair competition. § 17. The trust issues in 1912. § 18. Anti-trust legislation of 1914. § 19. Guiding principles of the new policy. § 20. Some early fruits.
§ 1. Moral judgments of competition and monopoly. What should be the attitude of society toward monopoly? Is it good or bad as compared with competition? Some very strong ethical judgments bearing on practical problems are found in the popular mind connected with the ideas of competition and monopoly. Competition usually is pronounced bad when viewed from the standpoint of the competitors who are losing by it, and good when viewed from the standpoint of the traders on the other side of the market who gain by that competition. Competition among buyers thus appears to sellers to be a good thing; that among sellers appears to themselves to be a bad thing (and vice versa). Many persons are moved by sympathy to pronounce competition among low-paid and underfed workers to be bad, and each worker is convinced that it is so in his own trade. Yet nearly all men are of one mind that competition is a good thing in most industries, those that are thought of as supplying the “general public.” Monopoly is believed by the public to be wrong in such cases, and competition to be the normal and right condition of trade. Yet there are some men interested in “large business” who look upon competition as bad, and upon monopoly as having essentially the nature of friendly co-operation. The roots of these opinions, or prejudices, are easily discoverable in the theoretical study of the nature of monopoly.1 Yet often different men or groups of men feel so strongly on this matter, viewing it from their own standpoints, that they are quite unable to understand how any one else can feel otherwise. There is thus a great deal of controversy to no purpose.
§ 2. Public character of private trade. Any such general judgment as that of the public, though it may be mistaken in some details, is likely to be a resultant of broad experience. There is in competitive trade a public, a social character, which monopoly destroys. Even in a simple auction, when the bidding is really competitive, price depends far less on shrewd bargaining, on bluff, or on stubbornness, than is the case in isolated trade. Each bidder is compelled by self-interest to outbid his less eager competitors, and thus the limits within which the price must fall are narrowly fixed. The auction-sale is less a purely personal matter, takes on a more public aspect, has a more socialized character, than isolated trade, depends more on forces outside the control of any one man, and results in a price fixed with greater definiteness. The price in a more developed market results from the play of impersonal forces, or at least from the play of personal forces which have come under the rules of the market.2 This price, men are ready to accept as fair. It has a democratic character, whereas the gains of monopoly price arouse resentment as being the work of personal power and felt to be despotic. Monopoly price is a bad price to the one who pays it, not only because it is a high price but because it bears the character of personal extortion.
The medieval notion of justum pretium, the just price, may have been often misapplied, and it was often criticized and ridiculed by economists in the period of idealized competition (from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill). But at the heart of the notion was the judgment that general uniform prices fixed in the open market are the proper norms for prices when one of the traders is caught at an exceptional disadvantage. The modern world has been compelled to reëxamine the conception of the just price.
§ 3. Evil economic effects of monopolistic price. Theoretical analysis confirms this view. Any exercise of monopolistic power over price keeps some, the weaker bidders, from getting any of the desired goods, or limits them to their most urgently desired units. What may be called the “theoretically correct price”3 with two-sided competition is the one that permits the maximum number of trades with a margin of gain to each trader. In narrowing the possibility of substitution of goods by trade, the sum of values of goods for most men is diminished. Thus all citizens who are the victims of an artificially created scarcity look upon monopoly as “bad,” just as they do upon the evils of nature—drought, locusts, fires, and pestilence. A monopoly has an indirect and more distant bad effect upon the spirit of all those trading with it. If they are producers selling at prices depressed by monopoly, their money incomes are reduced; if they are consumers buying at monopoly prices, their real incomes are reduced; in either case, their psychic incomes, the motives of all industry, are diminished and their industrial energies are relaxed.
§ 4. Common law on restraint of trade. The first recorded case in English law wherein the courts sought to prevent the limiting of competition by agreement runs back to the year 1415, in the reign of Henry V. This was a very simple case of a contract in restraint of trade, whereby a dyer agreed not to practise his craft within the town for half a year. The court declared the contract illegal (and hence unenforceable in a court), and administered a severe reproof to the craftsman who made it. Thus was set forth the doctrine of the moral and legal obligation of each economic agent to compete fully, freely, and without restraint, even restraint imposed by a contract voluntarily entered into for his own advantage.
Not until the eighteenth century was this rigid doctrine somewhat relaxed so as to permit the sale of the “good-will” of a business under limited conditions, and some “reasonable” contracts in restraint of trade. Later the emphasis was somewhat further shifted, by judicial interpretations, from the notion of free competition to that of “fair” competition, so as to permit contracts involving moderate restraint of trade, if the essential element of competition was retained. Thus it was said that a piano manufacturer might by contract grant an exclusive agency to a dealer in a certain territory, there being many other competing makes of pianos, and such a contract “does not operate to suppress competition nor to regulate the production or sale of any commodity.”4 But with such moderate limitations the courts in cases under the common law have steadily disapproved contracts in restraint of trade that would appear to be to the disadvantage of third parties, whether producers or consumers.
§ 5. Growing disapproval of combination. The attitude of the courts became in one respect stricter. Some earlier cases involved the doctrine that what is lawful for an individual to do alone is lawful if done in combination with others. Indeed, a comparatively recent case5 declared, regarding a group of dealers agreeing not to deal with another, that “desire to free themselves from competition was a sufficient excuse” for such action. But the general trend has been to the doctrine that a combination of men “has hurtful powers and influences not possessed by the individual.” Hence threats of associations of traders (retailers or wholesalers) not to deal with another if he continued to deal with some third party have been declared acts in restraint of trade.6 Yet in the case cited the court seemed to have been more concerned with protecting “the individual against encroachment upon his rights by a greater power,” “one of the most sacred duties of the courts,” than with rights and interests of the general public endangered by such restraint of trade.
§ 6. Competition sometimes favored regardless of results. In another respect the courts have wavered in their attitude toward competition, the general doctrine being that competition, particularly the cutting of prices, is absolutely justifiable, regardless of circumstances. In the leading English case7 the facts were that the larger steamship companies sent to Hankow additional ships, now called, figuratively, “fighting-ships,” to “smash” freights in order to ruin tramp steamship owners and drive them out of the field. The court held that this constituted no legal wrong to the tramp steamship owners, and scouted the idea of the court’s looking at the motives in price-cutting, or taking into consideration in any way what the court called “some imaginary normal standard of freights and prices.” And of this case the lawyer is forced to say: “Undoubtedly the excellent opinion just quoted represents the law everywhere,” even though there are other cases difficult to harmonize with it.8
To the economist, not bound in like manner by legal precedent, such a verdict seems short-sighted and mistaken. The court appears to have considered only the rights of the private litigants, the tramp steamship owners, not the rights and interests of the shipping public; it considered the immediate and not the ultimate effects of the “smashing” of rates; it allowed itself to be deceived by the appearance of acts that in outer form were competition, but that had as their purpose the strengthening and maintenance of monopoly. These acts are forms of the “unfair” practices that will be mentioned later.9
§ 7. Increasing regard for results of competition. Despite the binding precedents, the courts in some later decisions have refused to look upon competition as good regardless of its motives and of its consequences. In a federal case10 the judge, in a brief and acute dictum, recognized the evil of a rate war that would result from threats of definite cuts. They impair “the usefulness of the railroads themselves, and cause great public and private loss.” The court’s opinion was no doubt largely influenced by the fact that railroad rates were already subject to regulation: “Every precaution has been taken by state legislatures and by the Congress to keep them just and reasonable,—just and reasonable for the public and for the carriers.”
In a state case11 the facts were that a man of wealth started a barber-shop and employed a barber to injure the plaintiff and drive him out of business. The court recognized that while, as a general proposition, “competition in trade and business is desirable,” it may in certain cases result in “grievous and manifold wrongs to individuals”; and in this case the “malevolent” man of wealth was declared to be “guilty of a wanton wrong and an actionable tort.” The economist can but pronounce this judgment admirable as far as it goes, but it is remarkably confined to a consideration of the private legal rights of the injured competitor, and gives hardly a hint of a higher criterion for judging competitive acts, that of the general welfare.
The further enlightenment of judicial opinion upon the subject of cutthroat competition used as a tool to create monopoly was shown in the granting of an injunction by a federal court, in 1914,12 restraining the use of “fighting-ships” by a combination, and by the indication in 191513 of the willingness to grant a similar injunction if necessary. Similarly “fighting brands” of goods have been recently prohibited.
§ 8. Common-law remedy for monopoly ineffective. The common law contained prohibitions enough, both broad and specific, against contracts and acts in restraint of trade. The common law contained likewise a closely related body of doctrine by which the railroads, as common carriers, ought to have given equitable and undiscriminating rates to all shippers. There was a strong body of influential opinion that long maintained that the common law was sufficient to prevent monopoly, that the only thing needed was to enforce it. Even now, after all that has elapsed, there are some in railroad and business circles who still appear to hold that opinion. But the evils of railroad discrimination and of other monopolistic practices continued, and for some cause the common law was not enforced, excepting occasionally, disconnectedly, and without important results.
Why? The answer may be ventured that in the common law the whole question of restraint of trade was treated primarily as one of private rights and only incidentally as one involving general public policy. Cases came before the courts only on complaint of some individual who felt injured. Now the injury of higher prices due to contracts in restraint of trade is usually diffused among many customers, and the loss of any one is less than the expense of bringing suit. Consequently, it rarely happened that cases were brought before the courts except by one of the two equally guilty parties to a contract in restraint of trade, when the other party had failed in some way to do his part. When such an illegal contract in restraint of trade was proved before a court by a defendant in a civil suit, the contract was declared unenforceable, and the only penalty in practice was that the plaintiff could not collect his debt or secure performance from the defendant.14 A very similar situation existed in the case of the individual’s grievances against railroad charges and services.
§ 9. Federal legislation against monopoly. The passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 188715 prohibiting discrimination and railway pooling, and that of the Act of 1890 “to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies,” popularly known as the “Sherman Antitrust Law,” were part of one public movement to remedy monopoly. From one point of view it seems true, as has often been said, that in essence these statutes were simply enactments of long-established principles of the common law. Section 1 of the Sherman law declared illegal “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several states, or with foreign nations.” Section 2 made it a misdemeanor “to monopolize, or attempt to monopolize.”
But, from another point of view, these new laws showed a marked change both in the conception of the interests involved and in the means of preventing the evils. The evil was at last conceived of as a general public evil; the laws are not merely to protect individuals,16 but “to regulate commerce,” “to protect trade and commerce.” More important still, it was made the duty of public officers (district attorneys of the United States) to institute proceedings in equity “to prevent and restrain” violation of the Sherman Act, and a special Commission was instituted to deal with railroad cases. It was this undertaking of the initiative by the government, the treatment of the problem as one of the general welfare, that marked a new epoch in this field. The methods and agencies provided might be at first inadequate and ineffective, but time and experience could remedy those defects.
In important ways opinion and policies were not yet clear and consistent. They wavered from one to another conception of the method for dealing with the problem. It was clear only that laissez-faire had been laid aside. There are three other possible policies, reflecting as many different conceptions of the problem of monopoly: (1) monopoly prosecuted, (2) monopoly accepted and regulated, (3) competition maintained and regulated.
§ 10. Policy of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law. The policy of monopoly prosecuted embodied in the Sherman law is merely negative. It opposed no positive action to the making of monopolistic contracts and to the formation of combinations, but declared them to be illegal and provided for their prosecution and punishment after the mischief had been done. The great epoch of the formation of combinations17 followed the enactment of this law. True, lack of experience by the department of justice, and lack of vigorous effort to enforce the law, and the slow action of the courts were largely to blame for this result. The law has proved to be more effective to prevent new combinations, since it has been successfully enforced in a few notable cases. But once large combinations have been formed and complex individual financial interests have become involved, the courts have proved to be incapable of undoing the deeds. In practice the most sweeping remedy attempted under the law has been the dissolution of enormous combinations formed years after the law went into effect. This has been called the job of unscrambling the eggs. The most notable cases were those of the Standard Oil Company and of the Tobacco Company, decided in 1911, the results being absurdly futile.
§ 11. Policy of monopoly accepted and regulated. A second policy may be called that of monopoly accepted and regulated. This is represented by the Interstate Commerce Act (at first weakly, and more vigorously after its amendment), and by the great mass of state legislation putting the local and interurban public utilities under the control of regulative commissions. For some decades after these industries developed, the public faith was in competition as the effective regulator. If monopolistic prices were too high, another company was chartered to build a parallel railroad or another horse-car line on the next street, or to lay down another set of gas-pipes in the same block. Almost from the first, some students of the subject saw the wastefulness and futility of this kind of competition, and nearly a half-century later the public reluctantly came to this view. Still, sad to relate, the same history had to be repeated in regard to the telegraph and telephone industry, and in some quarters the ultimate outcome is not yet recognized. The Interstate Commerce Act itself, with odd inconsistency, contains an anti-pooling provision (Section 5), the purpose of which seems to have been to compel competition as to rates, which is now practically impossible under the other provisions of the law. The policy of “monopoly accepted” was seen to involve as a necessary feature public regulation of rates to the point, if necessary, of absolutely fixing them. The principle has come to be accepted that wherever competition ends there public regulation of prices and service begins. Monopolistic enterprises are ipso facto quasi-public institutions.
§ 12. Field of its application. This policy, gradually extending in practice, came to be applied to the class of industries which, for lack of a better name, are called local utilities. The one characteristic that they all have in common is that the service, or product, which is sold requires for its delivery some special use of public highways and an expensive, permanent, physical plant, such as gas-pipes, water-pipes, poles and wires. The telegraph, the telephone, electric lighting, street railways, regular steam railroads, and some other minor industries all answer to this test.18
Beginning about the year 1900, one state after another enlarged the powers of its state railroad commission or created a new corporation commission to regulate these “local” or “public utilities.”19 They have accomplished much, but the development of this kind of regulation has not proceeded in many cases beyond the adjustment of relative rates and the abolition of discrimination among the different individuals and classes of customers. Experience has shown the great difficulty of determining what is a fair absolute level of charges. A new science of accounting has been developing to assist in the solution of a problem the complexity of which transcends the agencies at hand to deal with it. With this policy applied to the local utility (and railroad) phase of monopoly, there remains still the problem of the industrial trusts in the manufacturing enterprises.
§ 13. The industrial trust—a natural evolution? The policy that one is inclined to favor regarding industrial trusts depends very much on one’s answer to the question: Are or are not industrial trusts natural growths? In this bare form the question is somewhat vague, but the thought of those who answer it in the affirmative is positive if not always entirely clear. They (at least, the extreme representatives of this view) declare that trusts have been, are, and will continue to be the results of a “natural evolution” of business conditions, as inevitable as the great changes in the physical world. If this is so, man and society must recognize the facts, must waste no efforts vainly in fighting against fate, but must accept the trusts and realize their possibilities for good. And these are declared to be great, for it is assumed that without the trusts all of the economies of large production must be sacrificed. Irresistible economic forces, it is said, are creating larger and larger units of business; friendly coöperation and unified action must take the place of competition in business.
The outcome must be monopoly in every important line of manufacturing industry and perhaps of commerce. In view of public opinion toward monopoly, its acceptance necessitates its regulation. This argument is supported by appeal to the experience in the field of railroads and other local utilities, where public opinion has, after long hesitation, recognized competition to be impracticable and the acceptance of monopoly as inevitable. As extremes often meet, the view of the industrial trust as a natural evolution is most favored, on the one hand, by men of “big business,” already interested financially in trusts, and, on the other hand, by the most radical communists (or socialists) whose ideal is the complete monopolization of industry under the government.
§ 14. Artificial versus natural growth. Opposed to this view is a deep and widespread popular opinion, or prejudice, against the trust and in favor of competition. General opinion in this case (as not always) finds much support in special economic studies of the methods by which the existing industrial trusts came into being. First the question properly is raised: Just what is meant by “natural”? In a sense, everything has been the natural outcome of evolution—the steam engine, the submarine, the boycott, militarism. In an equally good if not better sense, every mechanical invention and every method of industrial organization is artificial, has been the result of man’s choice and effort. In any case, men may choose as good, or reject as unsuitable or bad, any particular mechanical device, and society may decide to adopt any particular policy toward a certain form of business organization and certain business practices (unless, indeed, our philosophy be that of automatism, crude determination or fatalism, regarding all human affairs).
Now, when one examines the methods that the notable trusts actually did employ, and apparently had to employ, even when they were already powerful single enterprises, in order to destroy their competitors and to attain their monopolistic power, the word “natural” seems hardly to describe the process. The evidence is not a matter of hearsay, but is embodied in a long line of judicial decisions, and in numerous special inquiries by governmental commissions and officials.
§ 15. Kinds of unfair practices. This evidence is a startling array of “unfair practices” and “unfair” forms of competition, which, however novel in appearance, are essentially of the kind that have been illegal under the common law for the past five hundred years. Many of these practices were baldly dishonest, many of them were contemptibly mean. The manifold varieties of unfair competition may be roughly grouped under three headings, according as they are connected with (1) illegal favors received from public or quasi-public officials; (2) discrimination against, or control of, customers; (3) foul tactics against competitors.
(1) Among the practices in the first group are discriminatory rates and rebates from railroads, favoritism in matters of taxation, undue influence in legislatures, special manipulation of tariff rates through powerful lobbies or paid agents, undue influence in the courts through the employment of lawyers of the highest talent, who often later became judges.
(2) Among the unfair practices toward customers are discriminations among them by the various forms of price-cutting, grants of credit, and kinds of service. The liberty of retail dealers is limited in a variety of ways, such as fixing resale prices, requirement of exclusive dealing, and full-line forcing.
(3) All the methods just mentioned as employed in dealings with customers are likewise unfair toward competitors. Many other methods are used to the same end, such as: enticing away their employees, or corrupting and bribing them to act as spies, paying secret commissions, false advertising, misrepresenting competitors, imitating their patterns in goods of defective workmanship, shutting off their credit or their supplies of materials, acquiring stock in competing companies, malicious suits, infringement of patents, intimidation by threats of business injury or of scandalous exposures, operation of bogus independent companies.
§ 16. Growing conception of fair competition. Any industrial trust that was able to gain domination and monopoly power only by the use of such practices, or any part of them, can hardly be deemed the result of a “natural evolution.” If “artificial” means the use of artifices, surely this development deserves the adjective. Yet, even if not natural, this development may be thought to be “inevitable,” human nature being as it is. But the bald fact is that while the great trust movement was in progress no effort worthy of the name was being made to enforce even the then existing laws and to oppose this artificial development. The same allegation of inevitableness was once commonly made of discriminatory railroad rates and rebates, evils that have been in large part remedied only since the period 1903-1906, when at last intelligent action was taken.
To those who came to see the problem in this light, acceptance of industrial monopoly, with its complex task of fixing by public commission the prices on innumerable kinds and qualities of goods, seemed at least premature. Rather, the first step toward a solution seemed to be the vigorous prevention of unfair practices, and the next step a positive regularizing of “fair competition.” The fundamental idea in this is the enforcement of a common market price (plus freights) at any one time to all the customers of an enterprise. By this plan, potential competition would become actual, and small enterprises that were efficient might compete successfully within their own fields with large enterprises that maintained prices above a true competitive level. Even general lowering of prices by a large enterprise with evident purpose of killing off smaller competitors is unfair competition under this conception. It was for years recognized that the realization of this policy required legislation regarding uniform prices and the creation of a commission for the administration of the law.
§ 17. The trust issues in 1912. The campaign of 1912 presented in an interesting manner the three policies above outlined. The Republican party, led by President Taft, stood for the policy of monopoly prosecuted; its program was the vigorous enforcement of the Sherman law. The Progressive party, led by Mr. Roosevelt, stood in the main for the policy of “monopoly accepted and regulated”; its program called for minimizing prosecution and for retaining trusts under a system of regulation. The Democratic party, led by Mr. Wilson, stood for the policy of competition maintained and regulated, and the problem was to find means to strengthen and regularize the forces of competition.
In practice these programs doubtless are less divergent than they appear. All alike proposed the retention of the Sherman law. The two proposals to go further were presented as mutually exclusive alternatives, whereas they necessarily must supplement each other in some degree. The Progressives did not expect all industries to become monopolies, and the Democrats tacitly conceded to monopoly accepted the large field of transportation and local utilities it already had occupied. But there was a real difference in the angle of approach and a real difference in emphasis. The Democratic program (though somewhat unclearly) showed greater distrust of monopoly and greater faith in the possibilities of creating fair conditions of competition (which never had fully prevailed) in which efficiency would be able to prove its merits and monopoly would work its own undoing. It is more logical for the country to give this policy an adequate trial before adopting irrevocably the policy of general industrial monopoly. In either case, competition actual or potential is the fundamental principle by which prices have to be regulated. Where competition is enforced it is by applying some general rules that create a general market price instead of discriminatory prices, but the fixing of the price is left to the competitors. Where monopoly is accepted prices must be fixed with reference to an estimated competitive standard, that which under hypothetically free conditions would just suffice to attract and retain private enterprise and capital.
§ 18. Anti-trust legislation of 1914. The anti-trust legislation of 1914, passed by the Democratic party to carry out its program, is embodied in two acts: the Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The Clayton Act forbids discrimination where the effect may be to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly, and lays down new rules for determining fair prices. It permits due allowance to be made for differences in the cost of selling or transportation, but a difference is not required in such cases. It forbids contracts to prevent dealers from handling other brands. It forbids corporate ownership of stock in a competing corporation, forbids interlocking directorates in large banks and in other competing corporations, with capital, surplus, and undivided profits aggregating more than $1,000,000. The Federal Trade Commission Act provided an agency with administrative and quasi-judicial functions to deal with unfair practices, displacing the Bureau of Corporations, established in 1903. In addition to its administrative provisions for investigation, reports, and readjustment of the business of companies upon request of the courts, the act declares that “unfair methods of competition in commerce” are unlawful, and both empowers and directs the Commission to prevent their use (banks and common carriers subject to other acts being excepted).
§ 19. Guiding principles of the new policy. The Commission in March, 1915, began its work. Only two years later, and for the next three years, it was called upon to give a large part of its efforts to aiding other governmental agencies in their war-time and post-bellum work, especially in cost-fixing investigations, and could not adequately perform its original task. At the end of six years, many of the evils which the Commission was designed to correct still prevailed. The price advances within that period had been so swift and bewildering that they obscured all distinctions of normal demand, normal supply, fair price, war profiteering, and monopoly. For example, investigations in 1921 in New York and other cities revealed incredible monopolistic practices in the building industries, by labor and capital alike.
But for all this it cannot be doubted that a new and potent agency for creating higher business standards has been brought into existence. The new legislation drew the attention of the country to the development of a better commercial morality. Many business men wrote to the Commission commending the purposes of the law, and offering their coöperation to eradicate long standing practices which they deplored. The Commission admirably declared that it was seeking “to understand and make allowance for the difficulty of the problem, to see both sides of every case, to protect men in the furtherance of legitimate self-interest by all reasonable and normal methods, and at the same time to keep the channels of competition free and open to all, so that a man with small capital may engage in competition with powerful rivals, assured that he may operate his business free from harassment and intimidation and be given a fair opportunity to work out his business problems with such industry, efficiency, and intelligence as he may possess.”
§ 20. Some early fruits. Through the investigations of its economic division the Commission has collected a stupendous mass of detailed information on the conditions and the trade practices in many of the leading industries of the country, throwing the light of publicity into many a dark corner of commercial abuses.
The legal division of the Commission at the end of its first five years had received almost exactly two thousand applications for complaints (for unfair practices and violation of the Clayton Act), upon which it had made inquiries and dismissed about one half without publicity. The number of these had increased each year, more than one third having been in the last year. The Commission had in more than six hundred of these cases issued formal complaints, of which more were in the last year than in the previous four years.
In taking up these complaints the names of the complaining parties are not disclosed. The Commission’s work is primarily to protect the public interest and not merely to intervene in “contests between individuals in relation to their private rights.” On this theory, the Commission may and does institute proceedings “on its own motion without charges being made to it or upon application of parties not directly affected by the practices complained of.” This present policy in respect to monopoly stands out in striking contrast to the theory of the private litigant and the injured party as embodied in the preceding law and practice. It still remains to be seen whether, in the near future, it will be possible to scotch the snake of monopoly and give to the “common man” the chance to live and work according to fair rules of the game in business enterprise.
PRIVATE PROPERTY VERSUS SOCIALISM
[1 ]See Vol. I, especially pp. 74 and 75.
[2 ]See Vol. I, pp. 59, 68, 70, 71.
[3 ]See Vol. I, pp. 66, 67.
[4 ]77 Miss., 476. Cited by Bruce Wyman, “Control of the Market,” p. 137.
[5 ]19 R. I., 255.
[6 ]115 Ga., 429.
[7 ]Mogul Steamship Company v. McGregor (L. R. 23 Q. B. D. 598).
[8 ]Bruce Wyman, “Control of the Market,” p. 22. But see next §.
[9 ]See below, § 15.
[10 ]Averrill v. Southern Railway (75 Fed. Rep. 736).
[11 ]107 Minn. 145.
[12 ]216 Fed. 971.
[13 ]220 Fed. 235.
[14 ]Arnott v. Pittston and Elmira Coal Co., 68 N. Y. 558 (1877).
[15 ]See ch. 29. § 15.
[16 ]At the same time the rights of injured individuals are better safeguarded by section 7 of the Sherman law. permitting the recovery of three-fold damages and attorney’s fees.
[17 ]See ch. 30. § 8.
[18 ]See further, ch. 32, §§ 5-9.
[19 ]See ch. 29, § 3, on state commissions.