Revision of the Antitrust Laws

November 24, 1930

Report Outline
Recent Growth of Industrial Combination
Federal Antitrust Legislation
Judicial Interpretation of Antitrust Laws
Administration of the Antitrust Laws
Movement to Modify Antitrust Laws
Proposed Changes in Antitrust Laws

Recent Growth of Industrial Combination

Next to legislation dealing with the tariff, tax reduction, and prohibition no group of federal enactments has been more discussed by businessmen, chambers of commerce, and trade associations in recent years than the antitrust laws. Some commentators regard these laws as the bulwark of industrial liberty; others see them as a Procrustean bed ill suited to the changed economic conditions of the present day. During recent months a number of factors have directed increased attention to the antitrust laws and evoked proposals for their “liberalization” or “modernization”—the growth of industrial combinations; the application of the antitrust laws to specific industries such as oil, coal, copper, radio, and motion pictures; the effects of the administration of the laws upon competitive practices, trade associations, and labor; and the enforcement policy of the Hoover administration. The agitation for revision of the antitrust laws received sharp impetus last month when the President, addressing the American Federation of Labor at Boston, referred to the depressed condition of the coal industry and added: “If our regulatory laws be at fault, they should be revised.”

In view of the current discussion among businessmen and the prospect that it will reach the stage of public agitation and bill drafting at an early date, this report is devoted to a review of the federal antitrust laws, their judicial interpretation and administrative application, and of specific proposals for their modification.

Industrial Combination and Coördination

An increased tendency to organize industrial combinations has been a conspicuous development of business enterprise in recent years. Inventions, widening markets, large-scale production, and the development of corporation law and practice have contributed to concentration in manufacturing industries. In the fields of manufacturing and mining, according to the report of the Hoover Committee on Recent Economic Changes, the number of mergers increased from 67 in 1923 to 221 in 1928. The number of merged or acquired firms increased correspondingly—from 311 in 1923 to 1,038 in 1928. That the current business depression has not put an end to this process is evident from present plans or proposals for large-scale mergers of cotton manufacturers, of bituminous coal companies, of steel producing enterprises, of the railroads of New England, and of New York City banks. Notwithstanding the deterrent effect of declining stock prices upon mergers which involve the sale of securities to the public, financial journals report that 70 important mergers were carried through in the first ten months of 1930.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 03, 2021  Monopoly Power
Jun. 12, 1998  Antitrust Policy
Jul. 07, 1989  Do Antitrust Laws Limit U.S. Competitiveness?
Jan. 15, 1982  Business Mergers and Antitrust
Jan. 31, 1975  Antitrust Action
May 25, 1966  Business Concentration and Antitrust Laws
Feb. 19, 1947  Enforcement of the Antitrust Laws
Dec. 19, 1938  Anti-Trust Enforcement Through Consent Decrees
Nov. 24, 1930  Revision of the Antitrust Laws
Antitrust and Monopolies
Antitrust and Monopolies