Baseball’s unregulated monopoly survived the Progressive Era because it shared the values and goals of the progressives and because the regulatory institutions of the state were not yet mature enough to bring affirmative regulation to baseball. As the state’s institutions grew, the nation moved into what Eisner calls the associationalist regulatory regime. This quasi-corporatist regime, in which the regulated community was incorporated into the regulatory decision-making apparatus, was preoccupied with the imperatives of economic depression and world war. Organized baseball preserved its anomaly by providing comfort to a troubled nation and not raising any eyebrows. Internal stability in the game, as well as its role in boosting public morale, camouflaged baseball’s private self-government during a time when government regulators had more urgent matters with which to deal.
Although it is commonly seen as the genesis of the welfare state, the New Deal actually created what sociologist John Wilson calls a “franchise state” in which regulatory decisions were largely delegated to the regulated community. 1 The real welfare state, in which there was a shift to predominately direct regulation of industry, is more accurately associated with Eisner’s societal regime, which he sees as existing in the 1960s and 1970s. Its origins trace to President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs in the mid-1960s. It was during the societal regime that baseball’s unregulated monopoly would come under its most severe attack.