Economic Law and Economic Growth: Antitrust, Regulation, and the American Growth System

By George E. Garvey; Gerald J. Garvey | Go to book overview

Epilogue ECONOMIC LAW, INDUSTRIAL POLICY, AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

Circumstances today differ radically from those that conditioned the evolution of economic law, especially during the years after World War II. Changed circumstances call for a new legislative effort. Indeed, they call for a bold rethinking of the rules of antitrust law and rate regulation.

A challenge of the 1990s will be to identify industries that need more favorable capital positions than corporate savings or the private securities markets seem likely to provide. Such industries might be targeted for capital transfusions through administered resource transfers, particularly if public subsidies seem more likely to hook them on the corporate dole than to promote industrial adaptation.

Of course, capital allocations need not always favor petitioning industries. Policymakers might also determine that the public interest requires a gradual outflow of funds from overbuilt sectors. How long would it have been desirable to prop up the buggy-whip industry in the 1920s--or, for that matter, the domestic shoe-making or cassette-recorder industries in the 1970s?

Absent fairly explicit criteria of social desirability, it is rarely obvious whether support or contraction of a given industry is the desirable line of policy. We suggest restoration and maintenance of the growth system as the overarching criterion of policy choice. Explicit Congressional acceptance of this criterion would amount to an implicit repudiation of formulaic decisionmaking, whether of the neopopulist or the neoclassical variety.

It was emphasized in Chapters 2 and 3 that oligopolistic structures are inherent in a modern industrial economy--or at least in important sectors of such an economy. What is more, oligopoly defies the kind of determinate theories of pricing that the competitive and the monopolistic models generate.1 The inability of economic theory to provide determinate solutions for a range of

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