Broad framework setting no longer sufficed. Additional measures were needed to contain the newly released forces within the economy. The government empowered itself to prosecute monopolists under the antitrust laws or to institute detailed price regulation within specified (but obviously, no longer free) highly concentrated markets.
Antitrust enforcement and administrative rate setting injected public officials into a complicated system of economic relationships. Shibboleths about competitive markets could hardly begin to describe the intricacies of the wage- price-profit equipoise. Nor could devil theories of monopoly suggest how necessary it would be to keep tolerable wage-price-profit balances in order to maintain the growth system. Benighted interference in a complex economic mechanism might throw the whole system into disarray.
The main fallacy of the populist-progressive thinkers lay in their failure to reflect the broader outlook that the growth system required--to see exactly how the price mechanism fit into the larger system of balances. The contemporary crisis in antitrust and regulation is a long-delayed result of that late-nineteenthcentury failure to understand the full context and real functions of economic law.