Modern Industrial Organization: An Economic Interpretation


Professor von Beckerath's book deserves the attention of American readers for several reasons. It is free from the special slant which has been given to the discussion of many of its topics in this country by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and its interpretation by the courts; and it has a wider scope than most books in English on its general subject, dealing as it does not only with the great-scale industries that are actually or potentially monopolistic, but with manufacturing industries at large and with their varied forms of organization. In making this wider survey, the author has occasion to consider the differences between nations in historic development and ingrained aptitudes, their varying traditions, their capacities for organization, the psychology of their business leaders, and not least the social and cultural as well as the economic significance of private property and socialism.

In the United States, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, originally enacted for the purpose of making real and complete the freedom of the former slaves and securing them in the full enjoyment of property and liberty, has been given an extraordinary scope--one quite undreamed of at the time of its passage. The Federal courts have been gradually led from the initial steps to others of much wider range--to perplexing distinctions, alternate extensions and restrictions of the scope of the amendment, and gradually to an entirely novel chapter in jurisprudence. All the problems turn on the troublesome task of ascertaining the meaning of the terms "property" and "liberty," and of finding some standard which can be applied in using the words "due process of law" as a criterion of the legitimacy of any restraint on personal and economic freedom. The same sort of confusion and uncertainty appears in the interpretation of the two conspicuous Federal statutes regulating monopolistic industries, the acts of 1890 and of 1913. In these the ambiguous language used by the legislature has made it even more inevitable that judicial decisions should try to settle great questions of public policy through the process of interpreting the language of written . . .

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