The Politics of Antitrust: The Eisenhower Era
Theodore Philip Kovaleff
If the charges made during the 1952 presidential campaign had come to pass, a Republican victory would have ushered in vast changes in American society, among which one might have expected to see the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) sold or dismantled, Social Security eliminated, and antitrust enforcement cease. Experience proved all of these forebodings unfounded, of course, but the question of antitrust enforcement by the Eisenhower White House took longer than other doubts to be resolved.
When the Eisenhower administration began in early 1953, the climate of opinion was not at all favorable to antitrust enforcement. During the Depression years, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had alternately attempted to use, or not use, antitrust enforcement, or the lack thereof, as a means of restoring prosperity: first, the National Recovery Administration substituted regulation for competition, and then, when that failed, it sought recovery via the Temporary National Economic Committee and a vigorous policy of trade regulation. War-induced activity finally stimulated the economy, but after the advent of peace, people in and out of government feared that the Depression might return. Articles in both scholarly and popular journals and magazines proposed all sorts of remedies, many involving a change of direction in antitrust enforcement. 1
The way could have been clear then, in 1953, for a holiday from antitrust for the next four, eight, or sixteen years. Indeed, when the former chief of General Motors, Charles Wilson, was incorrectly quoted in his confirmation hearings as saying "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," many interpreted this statement as indicative of Big Business preparing to run the country and as an obvious clue to the shelving of antitrust laws. 2 As shown elsewhere, however, there was no such holiday, for the Eisenhower antitrust policy remained vigorous. 3