The Antitrust Laws of the United States of America: A Study of Competition Enforced by Law

By A. D. Neale | Go to book overview
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1. Political and institutional differences between the United States and Britain and their effect on the objectives of anti-monopoly policy

Political aims and concerns are bound to differ from country to country. While the United States and Britain both recognize a problem of monopoly and restrictive practices, it is by no means the same problem in the two countries. As we have seen, the basic concern in the United States is with the sheer possession of economic power; so much so that restrictive agreements and deliberate monopolizing are illegal per se even though it might be established in particular instances that they produce economic advantages. Rightly or wrongly, it seems unlikely that in Britain the cause of dispersing economic decision-making would of itself attract decisive public support; it would be widely believed that, if need be, economic power could be 'controlled' or dealt with in some other way, and an anti-monopoly policy would tend to be advocated mainly on other grounds.

One of the profoundest institutional differences between the two countries is the absence in the United States of anything corresponding to the amorphous but recognizable assemblage of public bodies and personages that we know in Britain as 'the Establishment';1 and this has much to do, both as cause and effect, with American distrust of authority per se. In general the possession of power by established authorities arouses a much lesser degree of anxiety or resentment in Britain, where the emphasis is much more on the use of power.

Whereas American institutions often appear to be designed to hamper the exercise of power, ours are designed on the whole to facilitate it, though great importance is attached to protecting minorities against its abuse and elaborate safeguards are adopted to this end. This general attitude to power extends beyond 'the Establishment'

The Establishment' provides a continuity of authority which may overlay dramatic changes. Not only do its component institutions change markedly over time -- consider the functions and powers of the Crown itself in 1550, 1750 and 1930 -- but new institutions are constantly being brought within it or into well-understood relationships with it -- consider the M.C.C., B.B.C. or T.U.C. Very radical policies may be adopted in Britain if they are presented as the next logical step after Magna Carta. In the United States, on the other hand, continuity tends to have to be disguised as change. The same policies have constantly to be presented in a new light -- consider the many different initials, E.C.A., M.S.A., F.O.A., etc., etc., which have denoted the agency administering American foreign aid.


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