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A paradoxical convergence: French economists and the policy towards cartels from the 1870s to the eve of the Great Depression

Abstract : Just like in other industrial countries, cartelization was widespread in France after the 1870 decade. Cartels, and the public policy towards them, were frequently addressed in the public debate. This article deals with the stance taken by French economists on this subject until the Great Depression. Although they were divided in several groups that were in sharp disagreement on most scientific and policy issues, French economists were almost united in their lack of support for anti-cartel policy. The liberal economists’opposition stemmed from their general hostility to government intervention. Unlike in the English-speaking world, where many economists otherwise critical of government gradually became supportive of antitrust after mounting evidence had revealed the scope of certain kinds of exclusionary behavior, the French liberal economists remained constant in their opposition. The more reform-minded university professors, as well as the sociologists-economists of the Durkheimian school, were unenthusiastic about policies meant to safeguard competition because they viewed ‘excessive’ market competition as destabilizing and wasteful. Finally, the most prominent experts in industrial economics, who were employed by large companies or professional organizations, also advocated a hand-off approach, in accordance with their employers’preferences.
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Submitted on : Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 9:45:50 AM
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David Spector. A paradoxical convergence: French economists and the policy towards cartels from the 1870s to the eve of the Great Depression. 2020. ⟨halshs-02967599⟩

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