The Origins of the National Recovery Administration: Business, Government, and the Trade Association Issue, 1921-1933

The Origins of the National Recovery Administration: Business, Government, and the Trade Association Issue, 1921-1933

The Origins of the National Recovery Administration: Business, Government, and the Trade Association Issue, 1921-1933

The Origins of the National Recovery Administration: Business, Government, and the Trade Association Issue, 1921-1933

Excerpt

This book is the history of the business community’s efforts during the 1920s and early ‘thirties to emasculate the federal policy, stemming from the Sherman Act and subsequent antitrust legislation, of maintaining a competitive enterprise system. The period begins with the Harding Administration and ends with the coming of the New Deal. The central issue, pressed quite continuously by trade association spokesmen and other business leaders, was the redefinition of the legal limits upon industrial cooperation. Businessmen, of course, wished to expand their right to cooperate, to shrink the potential of the traditional antitrust policy for interfering with business agreements to fix prices, regulate the rate of production, or otherwise limit competition. The specific goals of this business campaign for antitrust revision varied substantially during the period. They could be limited or extravagant, for formal legal change or administrative relaxation, depending upon the political climate and other circumstances.

Thus, not only are the demands of the businessmen and the political pressures they exerted recounted here, but also the changing pattern of government attitudes and policies toward competition and cooperation— a pattern much more complex than has hitherto been supposed. The view embedded in much of the literature on the period—that government economic policy during the Republican era reflected, directly and emphatically, what businessmen wanted—is no doubt recognized nowadays as too simple, but there are few studies precisely tracing the economic policies of the succeeding Presidents and gauging the influences which shaped them. The policies toward cooperation and competition which Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover fashioned were, for much of the period, far from meeting the wishes of the business community. The values of the Presidents and their lieutenants, the political climate and economic circumstances, had as much as or more to do with policy formation than business pressure.

Just as the history of the revision movement offers an opportunity for a fresh look at the way the antitrust laws were interpreted and enforced during the Republican era, so it furnishes a new angle of approach for investigating certain fundamental questions about the structure and ideology of the business community during the ‘twenties. Sharp differences between different segments of the business community over goals and tactics emerged at an early stage of the protracted effort to . . .

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