Americans have long appealed to images of free competition in calling for free enterprise, freedom of contract, free labor, free trade, and free speech. This imagery has retained its appeal in myriad aspects of public policy—for example, Senator Sherman's Anti-Trust Act of 1890, Justice Holmes's metaphorical marketplace of ideas, and President Reagan's rhetoric of deregulation.
In Competition Policy in America, 1888-1992, Rudolph Peritz explores the durability of free competition imagery by tracing its influences on public policy. Looking at congressional debates and hearings, administrative agency activities, court opinions, arguments of counsel, and economic, legal, and political scholarship, he finds that free competition has actually evoked two different visions—freedom not only from oppressive government, but also from private economic power. He shows how the discourse of free competition has mediated between commitments to individual liberty and rough equality—themselves unstable over time. This rhetorical approach allows us to understand, for example, that the Reagan and Carter programs of deregulation, both inspired by the rhetoric of free competition, were driven by fundamentally different visions of political economy.
Peritz's historical inquiry into competition policy as a series of government directives, inspired by two complex yet distinct and sometimes contradictory visions of free competition, provides an indispensable framework for understanding modern political economy— whether political campaign finance reform, corporate takeover regulation, or current attitudes toward the New Deal Legacy. Competition Policy in America will be of great interest to lawyers, historians, economists, sociologists, and policy makers in both government and business.
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"The book is bold and provocative....a truly daunting enterprise that few others have dared to attempt."— Law and History Review
"Everybody who is interested in twentieth century constitutional history or current constitutional law will want to read Competition Policy in America. Peritz offers an extremely fresh perspective of the era."— The Law and Politics Book Review
"Comprehensive, scholarly, and well documented....Recommended for legal scholars and graduate-level and professional economists."— Choice
"Mr. Peritz has written a fascinating account of America's flirtations, engagements and disappointments with 'competition' and the 'market.' Neither an abstract history of ideas nor a flat account of legal policies. This book combines the best of intellectual history and informed political commentary. Peritz traces the uses and abuses of the rhetoric of competition by politicians, populists and policy mavens across the century. A great read."—David Kennedy, Harvard Law School
"This work is provocative, ambitious and exciting, a sweeping reinterpretation of the rhetorics of law and political economy deployed in a century-long public argument about the practical meaning of freedom. Peritz is most original in the way he brings together for analysis ways of thinking that are too often kept separate—thinking about competition and thinking about property, business combinations and labor combinations, free trade in commerce and free trade in ideas. His work comes just in time to remind us of the radical anti-monopoly traditions of American law and politics, of the "free enterprise" ideology as a critique of private economic power and its abuses as well as of government. If this book has the success it deserves, it should prompt a fundamental rethinking of conventional wisdoms in antitrust policy, labor law, free speech, and the relations of individuals to business entities and the state."—Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School
" Competition Policy in America is a superb and sophisticated study of the social, political, economic, and intellectual debates that have shaped competition law and policy for the past century. Blending acute legal and economic analysis into the broader currents of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century American history, it illuminates the conflicts that drove the evolution of competition policy and significantly expands our understanding of the whole field of government economic regulation."—Edward A. Purcell, Jr., New York Law School
"It is a splendid critical history of the economic theory known as the Chicago School." American Historical Review
"...provides an inispensable framework for understanding modern political economy—whether political campaign finance reform, corporate takeover regulation, or current attitudes toward the New Deal legacy."— Bimonthly Review of Law Books
"...this impressive and important book should command the attention of all political historians, legal scholars, and social theorists."— The American Journal of Legal History
"The book is bold and provocative....Often eloquent, insistently contentious, and refreshingly insightful, Peritz gives us a bracing and challenging account of the evolution of antitrust law....Peritz has provided us with a book that will long be seen as a central contribution to meeting that need."— Law and History Review
"...It is a valuable work."— Labor History
About the Author: Rudolph J.R. Peritz is Professor of Law at New York Law School. He has been a Langdell Fellow at Harvard Law School, as well as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Texas. He has written and spoken widely on competition policy, antitrust history, and computer law and policy.
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