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The Antitrust Revolution in Europe

Exploring the European Commission’s Cartel Policy

Lee McGowan

This insightful and original book considers the evolution, aims and developments of EU antitrust policy, and focuses on the way in which the European Commission has sought to combat cartels.
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Chapter 3: The Rise of the Cartel: Toleration, Encouragement and the Control of Cartels in Europe, 1871–1945

Lee McGowan


Although it is certainly tempting – and it would have been a much more straightforward exercise – to keep any study of EU cartel policy completely focused on post-1945 developments, it would have been short-sighted. European cartel policy may essentially be a post-1945 phenomenon, but in order to appreciate its developments and the decisive break in continuity from practices in the first half of the twentieth century that it represents it is necessary to push further back, and at least to the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Only then can we understand the wider context, stages and drivers shaping the history and development of anti-trust policy. This longer time frame also allows for a brief discussion of the adoption of the modern world’s first substantive cartel legislation in the United States of America in 1890 which not only pre-dated the European integration process by some sixty years, but initially challenged European assumptions of the desirability of cartels. Opting for this longer time-frame has its challenges and necessitates knowledge of a considerable business and economics based literature on the period prior to 1945. This chapter provides a brief overview and aims to draw out how, where and why the number of cartels expanded and, more importantly, how states responded to the process of intensifying cartellisation, both domestically and internationally. The period after 1870 to the end of the Second World War is generally held to epitomise the era and triumph of the cartel as an accepted form of business activity, and one...

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