danger always exists, of course, but the safeguards we have built
against it are formidable, as the Bricker Amendment debate of the 1950s has shown. Given this background, Congress's bland unconcern about the practice of economic management by perpetual negotiation is striking. These negotiations continuously create precedents
that, too, have binding, legal, power. Individually, they may be innocuous, but in their slow accretion they are congealing into extensive
arrangements, systems of reciprocal commitments and expected practices that may be as difficult to modify or to repeal as a formal treaty.
They are changing national law and it can be strongly argued that
they are changing it against the grain of our constitutional philosophy.
We have seen, however, that these negotiations often enable congressional minorities and industry to obtain political results in support of
which a majority would be unwilling to go on record. This short-term
political convenience seems to be the best explanation of congressional
It seems to have developed from a still earlier precedent, the "gentlemen's agreement" negotiated between the U.S. and Japanese governments
after the openly and insultingly discriminatory measures taken in California
against residents of Japanese origin in 1905 and 1907. Under the agreement,
the Japanese government voluntarily restricted and controlled emigration to
the United States.
An American commercial diplomat told the author the following story.
He was in a Southeast Asian country to negotiate a textile and clothing
restraint, an arduous negotiation that took more than a week. One evening
a visitor who was waiting for him in his hotel introduced himself as the
president of the local plywood manufacturers association. His industry was
undergoing a crisis. It had been, only a few years ago, a highly profitable
industry. The profits, however, attracted a number of new firms into the
industry, and these new fellows had no sense of discipline and solidarity,
were undercutting prices, and generally ruining the industry. There was only
one way of saving it, and that is why his colleagues sent him to see the
American diplomat: to find out how one applies for a self restraint in Washington.
For details on the negotiations of textile and clothing restraints with Southeast Asia, see
David B. Yoffie, Power and Protectionism ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 123-58.
"Japan-United States: Orderly Marketing Agreement for Japanese Color
Television Receivers," in International Legal Materials: Current Documents, vol. 16, no. 3 ( May 1977), p. 641.
Wall Street Journal ( European ed. April 29, 1985).
European Report, November 18, 1983.
R. N. Cooper, A Re-Ordered World (Washington: Potomac Associates, 1973), p. 47.