THE PROBLEM AND ITS SETTING
Among the avowed purposes of the National Industrial Recovery Act none stands out more clearly than the declaration of intention to revise the nature of competition in American business. The first section of the law declared it to be the policy of Congress "to eliminate unfair competitive practices." Among the "goals" toward which the President, in affixing his signature, declared the act to be directed was "the elimination of piratical methods and practices which have . . . harassed honest business. . . ." That its purpose was to "civilize industry," to "write a new merchant law" for American business, has been the repeated statement of official interpreters. As a consequence of this purpose of the law, NRA codes have contained, either under the title of trade practices or otherwise, provisions designed to regulate trade activities. Indeed the codes are called codes of fair competition.
Trade practice regulations are often regarded as a matter of no serious moment. There is, in many quarters, an easy-going assumption that it is easy to distinguish between the fair and the unfair; that a mere reference to "unethical competition" or "dishonorable competition" provides in itself the criteria of judging what is "unethical" or what is "dishonorable." The history of six centuries of common law, the enactment of a large number of federal and state statutes, and the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission have all indicated the fallacy of this view. It has again been demonstrated by the experience of the NRA.