Federal Antitrust Policy during the Kennedy-Johnson Years

By James R. Williamson | Go to book overview

3
The Response: The Executive

THE WHITE HOUSE: THE GOVERNMENT-BUSINESS ENVIRONMIENT

The Business Community

The previous chapter detailed the growth of business concentration in the United States, especially during the Kennedy-Johnson years--the years of the Third Great Merger Movement. In order to examine the national government's response to that movement, it is necessary to identify the business community with which the branches and agencies of government had to interact and the political atmosphere within which that interaction took place.

During these years, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that there were approximately 370,000 manufacturing firms in the United States, with 195,000 chartered as corporations and the remainder identified as proprietorships and partnerships. Jim Heath, in John F. Kennedy and the Business Community, estimated that there were approximately 50 million white-collar individuals who considered themselves to be "businessmen." Blue-collar workers and farmers also considered themselves to be businessmen. Thus, the business "community" was not a single interest group, but a gigantic mixture of diverse interests, supported by over 13,000 national, state, and local organizations and over 5,000 local chambers of commerce, each seeking to affect government policy at all levels. 1

Obviously these individuals and organizations were not equally influential nor could they command equal attention from government. However, just 200 of these manufacturing firms, less than 0.1 percent, controlled over 60 percent of the assets and received over 60 percent of the annual profits of the entire 370,000. 2 Although political leaders praised and encouraged small business development, reality required them to recognize that the health and growth of the national economy depended upon the decisions and activities of the largest firms. Therefore it was

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