P R I C E S
It was curious and symbolic that none of the disputants of the Tariff Commission days published a rigorous study of the price history of the industry, in spite of its significance for the reformers' argument. Even the Board of Trade, in its work of publishing information to illuminate the sources of foreign competition, only touched the fringe of the problem of prices. It was not to be doubted, the officials of the Board allowed, that Kartells followed a two-price policy "in a time of depression"; and it was theoretically possible that a Kartell might set out by such a policy to destroy a British industry, but there was "no evidence" of such a policy in fact. Such price discrimination as occurred resulted from "the novel circumstance" of intense German over-production "in this critical period... of supply exceeding demand in the German domestic market". The position thus stated had a short-period air about it. When the exacting question was put, What degree of price discrimination had occurred? no precise answer could be given. Information derived from isolated instances almost always came from German sources unfavourable to the Kartells, and was therefore suspect; moreover, if it were true it was probably unrepresentative, relating to a small proportion of transactions only. Statements of the course of average prices over long periods, on the other hand, "necessarily rested upon the information supplied by the German combinations, difficult to verify and given by persons unwilling to help the German consumers in their complaints".1 So the problem must remain obscure.
But the Board's inquiry was far from exhaustive. Actually, in the few instances where Kartells in the industry published what they described as "realised" prices, these were considerably____________________