[This in Chapter 10 of Murphey’s book Liberalism in Contemporary America.  It was reprinted as an article in the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Summer 1992.]  


Liberalism and the Modern Corporation 

The corporation has been the dominant form of business entity within modern capitalism.  That, of course, would be reason enough for it to have received considerable attention from the social philosophies.  But there has been an additional reason: the attention has been heightened by the fact that there have been major schools within both socialist and modern liberal thought that have looked upon the large corporation as a stepping-stone to a collectivist economic system.

Because each of the philosophies has been vitally interested in the role of corporations and other economic aggregates, the subject has come up in my books discussing the other ideologies.   Those discussions are an important backdrop for this chapter.  They should be consulted if a reader wants a more complete understanding of the issues raised by the other philosophies.1

Earlier in the present book, I discussed the competing liberal attitudes toward corporations when I reviewed the Progressive period and the New Deal.  The present chapter, of course, deals with the issue for its own sake in light of its importance within liberal philosophy.  In this discussion, I will try to avoid repeating the earlier material beyond what is necessary to allow the issue to be understood as a whole.2

As a part of reviewing the New Nationalist school, we will examine what I call "the Berle-and-Means thesis," which alleges a crisis of legitimacy within the modern corporation.  We will see, too, how the New Left, reflecting the attitudes of nineteenth century decentralist socialism, leveled a powerful attack upon what it called "corporate liberalism" or the "military-industrial-political complex."

The New Nationalist perspective

In order to understand one of the main liberal schools of thought regarding the modern corporation, it is important to know something about the history of socialist thought.

In Das Kapital, Karl Marx wrote about how capitalism itself reaches a transitional phase to socialism through the corporate form.   As a large number of investors place their capital in a corporation that is managed by others, thereby making a passive investment, the capital, Marx said, becomes "directly endowed with the form of social capital as distinct from private capital, and its undertakings assume the form of social undertakings as distinct from private undertakings."   He referred to this as "a necessary transitional phase" that points toward eventual worker control when finally the corporation is converted "into the property of associated producers, as outright social property."3

Although Edward Bellamy's theoretical system was somewhat different from Marx's, this point about the corporation was the keystone of Bellamy's expectation that corporate capitalism would evolve into socialism.  In Looking Backward (1888), Bellamy projected a future in which business would become so consolidated that it would be run as "one great business corporation."   Then the state would become "the one capitalist in the place of all other capitalists, the sole employer, the final monopoly in which all previous and lesser monopolies were swallowed up . . . The epoch of trusts had ended in “The Great Trust."   The reader will recall that his book, which is among the most influential in the intellectual history of the United States, was a futuristic description of how a socialist society would come about and could be expected to function.4

Bellamy became the leader of a movement known as "Nationalism."   In his introduction to the 1960 republication of Bellamy's book, Erich Fromm explained what Bellamy meant by this label.   Fromm wrote that Bellamy "called this movement 'nationalist,' referring by this word both to the nationalization of all means of production and to the fact that only this form of society could bring about the rich flowering of a nation's life."5

We have seen how during the Progressive period a movement called "the New Nationalism" arose out of the interplay between Herbert Croly and Theodore Roosevelt.   The principal expression of this position was in Croly's book The Promise of American Life (1909).  It was a natural heir to Bellamy's perspective.  It too looked forward expectantly to the continuing consolidation of corporate capitalism; it saw that consolidation was the main chance for government to absorb the corporate system into a comprehensive scheme of national policy; and it too held to an ultimate socialist aspiration.

The difference between Bellamy and Croly was the difference between those who were openly socialist and those who, by adopting dissimulation and a generally unacknowledged Fabianism, fashioned that unique ideological animal known as the American liberal.  There is no question but that Croly yearned for socialism.  His book Progressive Democracy (1915) embraced, as we have seen, the Guild Socialist enthusiasm for worker-control.  But Croly was the master dissimulator -- a subject about which I have already cited ample detail.

Again it is important to recognize that not all who have followed the New Nationalist tradition within modern liberalism have been socialists.  In my discussion of the New Deal, we saw that there were several sources for the call for consolidated business.  These even included important business elements.  Such elements have differed from those who are socialists over an essential point: the business sources have generally wanted the consolidation to serve the purposes of business; those who have been socialists have wanted the consolidation to be the vehicle for central state planning and for worker control.

Examples of the attitudes of those members of the liberal intellectual culture who have embraced the New Nationalist perspective are easy to find.

An unsigned article in The New Republic in 1925 illustrates the preference for the large corporation over small-unit capitalism: "Can we force a return to the dominance of the small independent baker, grocer, druggist?  Would the public benefit if we could? . . . A splitting up of the large company would destroy the economies.  To get anywhere we must turn away from the old trust-busting tradition towards profits taxation, or price regulation, or public ownership, or consumer ownership."   (The reader will notice the reference to "consumer ownership," which within socialist thought has been an alternative to worker ownership.)   This article is consistent with Croly's view in The Promise of American Life that "the process of industrial organization should be allowed to work itself out.  Whenever the smaller competitor of the large corporation is unable to keep his head above water with his own exertions, he should be allowed to drown."6

In this context, the stockholder's role would be minimal, becoming that simply of a bondholder receiving interest on the money advanced.  (Even this was a concession to the American political realities.  In England, the socialist R. H. Tawney called for the expropriation without compensation of the stockholder.  Tawney was, by the way, a frequent contributor to The New Republic.   In keeping with the dissimulation, he held such views in check in his articles for American publication.  Liberal intellectuals were, of course, fully aware of what he was saying in his books.)   A 1931 New Republic article called for "public control in the public interest" and went on to say that "in determining 'public interest,' first consideration [should] be given to the workers in the industry, second to the consuming public, and third to the active management.  The interest of the investors [should] be recognized only to the extent of a reasonable rate of interest on the actual investment in the enterprise."7

Liberals have for the most part been discrete in their statements about how much the giant corporations are then to be socialized.   (As with the dissimulation in general, though, they have let down their guard on a number of occasions, especially although not exclusively during the more radical periods.)   A statement by T. K. Quinn in The New Republic in 1961 has been typical: "Powerful, giant, private corporations cannot safely continue to be treated as wholly private institutions . . . In addition to the establishment of a Price and Wage Board, we should now reconsider such proposals as public representation on the boards of directors of the biggest corporations."   TRB chimed in in his weekly column a week later: "Corporations . . . are becoming so big and powerful as to warrant a quasi-governmental status with the kind of supervision applied to other federal agencies."  In his book The New Industrial State in 1978, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote: "If the mature corporation is recognized to be part of the penumbra of the state, it will be pressed more strongly to the service of social goals."8

      We know from our earlier review of post-World War II liberalism that the more-or-less futile search for identity by liberals during the 1970s and 1980s has entailed renewed interest in the entire range of options that were considered by liberals during the 'Teens and 1920s.  There has been considerable ferment for worker control, with the Japanese system of participatory management and lifetime worker security serving as at least one of the models in light of Japan's success.  [Note in 2002: There has been far less interest during the past decade as Japan has been in a seemingly endless recession.]   The literature has repeatedly brought up the idea of government or consumer or worker representatives on corporate boards of directors, and has often referred to the European principle of "co-determination."   This reference is a favorable one, since it evokes the example of the European social democracies.  We know, of course, that the idea has also been popular within the main totalitarian movements of the twentieth century.9

A substantial literature has grown up during the past several years about "corporate social responsibility."  This literature for the most part presupposes a liberal point of view; it calls upon corporations to serve voluntarily as major social service agencies, and to perform a great many functions that do not relate, except indirectly through the goodwill that may be generated, to the task of creating a return on their stockholders' investments.  An academic discipline has sprung up within the schools of business in our universities, and classes in social responsibility have been made a required part of business curricula.  Within schools of accountancy, a subdiscipline of "social accounting" has developed, and seeks ways to measure just how "socially responsible" each corporation is.  Efforts are made to plug this accountability into government, so that the federal government can monitor and regulate the social-service activities of business.

To the extent such an ethos can be created and the government gotten involved in requiring and monitoring it, the "social responsibility" approach is another of the efforts to absorb corporations into the state.   As such, it is fully in line with the New Nationalist tradition.

To the extent, however, that it constitutes an effort to prevail upon business voluntarily, and without oversight, to perform the functions that liberals have wanted the welfare state to perform, it is something that would have been viewed with contempt by most pre-World War II liberals.   T. K. Quinn was speaking very much within this tradition when he wrote in 1961 that "America cannot depend upon any fictitious Corporation Conscience or permit the domination of any private power."   He called upon the federal government itself to exercise the functions that he considered primarily governmental.   It is worth remembering that after the Progressive movement had ended liberals came to excoriate the idea of "moral do-goodism."   Consistently with socialist theory and the deterministic perspective of so much social science, they wanted a system of entitlements.  These would replace charity and "unplanned, unpredictable" voluntary programs.10

Another concept that originates in the New Nationalist position is the idea of "yardstick" firms.  The latter would be governmentally operated firms that supposedly could provide a standard of comparison by which to evaluate the prices, profits, labor policies and consumer service of private firms.  Melville J. Ulmer has said that the idea originated with Walter Durand in The New Republic on May 26, 1926.   In recent years, John Kenneth Galbraith has been a strong supporter of the concept.   (It seems ludicrous, now that Communism has collapsed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, that anyone would suggest looking at a state-operated enterprise as a measure of how well a private enterprise is doing.   But that is what the "yardstick" idea proposed.)11

The Berle-Means thesis

There is a part of the New Nationalist tradition that should be discussed separately because it occupies a distinct place in the literature.  This is the analysis that is attributed to A. A. Berle, Jr., and Gardiner C. Means, and that they stated in their famous book The Modern Corporation and Private Property in 1932.

It has been commonplace in liberal writing since 1932 to refer back to the Berle-Means book as though the analysis originated with them.   No doubt a great many of the writers who make these references are not aware that the analysis that Berle and Means made was already quite old by the time they elaborated it.   But even if this is true, the focus on Berle and Means is one of the best examples of liberal dissimulation; it puts a twentieth century American liberal source in the place of the various nineteenth century socialist authors who advanced the same ideas well ahead of Berle and Means.   Since many American liberals, especially in the 1930s, were intimately conversant with socialist writing, including Marx's Das Kapital, the conclusion is inescapable that this substitution was essentially dishonest, arising from a desire to be less than candid about the socialist origins of a major liberal analysis.   A good portion of this obfuscation can be attributed to Berle and Means themselves.  It was hardly an accident that Berle and Means did not footnote to Marx, G. D. H. Cole, Thomas Kirkup and others.

The Berle and Means thesis, as I summarized it in my book Socialist Thought, is that in large business corporations the control is no longer in the hands of the owners, the stockholders.  "Control," the thesis says, "may be held by the directors or titular managers who can employ the proxy machinery to become a self-perpetuating body, even though as a group they own but a small fraction of the stock outstanding."  This means that the managers are "irresponsible," since they are not effectively accountable to the stockholders.  In turn, this is said to falsify one of the basic assumptions upon which a system of private property is based - the assumption of owner control.   Berle and Means suggested that this makes the corporation more "quasi-public" than private.12

As a solution for this alleged irresponsibility, Berle and Means, in common with New Nationalists in general, called for marrying the modern corporation to the state, making the corporation an instrument of social policy.   "Neither the claims of ownership nor those of control can stand against the paramount interests of the community . . . (T)he 'control' of the great corporations should develop into a purely neutral technocracy, balancing a variety of claims by various groups in the community and assigning to each a portion of the income stream on the basis of public policy."   Other than perhaps the statement I have just quoted, there was no clarion call for government ownership; Berle and Means were committed to a dissimulative style and were willing to go only as far as Croly had gone in The Promise of American Life, with broad suggestions in favor of governmental absorption.   But the direction in which they pointed was unmistakably socialist.13

At the beginning of this chapter's section on New Nationalism, I quoted a passage from Marx's Das Kapital that contains all of the same ideas (but without the dissimulation).   It is worth noting that the British socialist G. D. H. Cole had stated the thesis in his book Labour in the Commonwealth - and had even considered it a "commonplace."   He said that "it is, of course, commonplace that the development of capitalism and the growth of joint-stock enterprise have more and more divorced the ultimate ownership from the actual control and management of industry."   In addition to seeing the thesis in the writings of Marx and Cole, I have noticed it in Thomas Kirkup's History of Socialism - published in 1909.14

The thesis was also common currency in American liberal writing long before Berle and Means.  In an 1895 article, Lester Ward quoted statements by J. R. Commons, made of course at an even earlier time, expressing the analysis.  Jerome Frank, ignoring Marx and the other openly socialist authors, traced the thesis back to Thorstein Veblen.  Writing in 1938, Frank said that "Veblen was the pioneer thinker.  Repeatedly he pointed out the rise of 'absentee ownership' as an inherent and significant aspect of the growth of the giant corporations . . . Two of his disciples, Berle and Means, recently gave us striking statistical evidence of Veblen's thesis."15

The thesis had in fact received considerable attention in The New Republic during the 'Teens and 1920s.  The first article I have noted was in an issue just three months after the journal began.   John Maynard Keynes authored one of the many articles when in 1926 he wrote of "the tendency of big enterprise to socialize itself."   He said that "a point arrives in the growth of a big institution . . . at which the owners of the capital . . . are almost entirely dissociated from the management."  Berle himself was actively promoting the analysis in an article as early as 1921.16

When we evaluate the merits of the analysis, we see immediately that the thesis offers one of the better examples of how an idea can gain almost universal acceptance by containing just enough of the truth to enjoy a superficial plausibility.  The thesis is repeated uncritically by a great many authors.   This includes the literature that is read in the colleges of business (which, as to their faculties, are not necessarily hothouses of conservatism).

It is foolish, however, for anyone to accept the Berle-and-Means thesis who is otherwise committed to a market economy.  The analysis is only partly an observation of fact and is primarily a rationale for the state's absorption of large corporations.

The thesis' plausibility comes from its latching onto the fact that, in the absence of unusual circumstances, a widely diffuse body of stockholders, most of whom do not own enough stock to have a substantial interest in company affairs, cannot do otherwise than rubber-stamp the actions of the existing management.  Unless there is a major stockholder revolt, the existing management is easily able to gain reelection and the ratification of its policies. 

It does not follow, though, that the managements of large corporations are for that reason "loose cannons" - "unaccountable" and "irresponsible."   Nor does it follow that one of the basic premises of the theory of private property is falsified by the fact that there is a separation between ownership and control.

The justification, so far as the theory of property is concerned, is in the freely-arrived-at contractual relationships through which the stockholders have come to vest control in the management.  Classical liberalism, the philosophy most devoted to private property and the market economy, recognizes "freedom of contract" as a central principle.  It has no bias against "a separation of ownership and control" - such as occurs in any bailment, lease or (from the settlor's point of view) certain trusts - so long as the relationship is the product of voluntary contract.

It is, instead, socialist thought that has always had the bias against "absentee ownership."   It is a misstatement to say that the modern corporation's separation of ownership and control violates classical liberal suppositions; it would, however, be accurate to say that it violates those of socialism.   (I am aware that John Locke, the major classical liberal thinker of the seventeenth century, justified private property in a way that left unresolved the question of absentee ownership, since his analysis was rudimentary within the context of his discussion of rights arising out of "a state of nature."   What he would have said about more extended forms of property if he had addressed them is, of course, a matter of conjecture.   The classical liberal position is the product of a great deal of thinking that goes well beyond Locke on this point.)

So far as the accountability of corporate management is concerned, it comes in the marketplace, not primarily at stockholders' meetings.   Business firms rise and fall according to the flow of equity and debt capital.   Most certainly there is a "survival of the fittest" among firms - and consequently among the managements that head them.  The argument that managers are insulated from this is an argument that in the short term a management team can bleed a company, oblivious to the fact that the firm is losing its place.   But managers who take that attitude are making themselves vulnerable to a hostile take-over: outside financiers see that a firm is performing less well than its prospects would seem to justify, and are accordingly willing to acquire the firm for its profit-potential; and the stockholders, if they are dissatisfied with the existing management, are anxious to sell.

It is also true that the courts provide some remedy for minority stockholders in cases where the management has been given more to spoliation than to promoting the business's interests.   I don't emphasize this, since it never seems to me that litigation is more than a pale substitute for a satisfactory reality.   But there is no reason to think that the reality is not essentially satisfactory.   The issue of management spoliation hardly receives any attention in public discussion - including among investors of all types -, and this leads me to infer that it cannot be a genuine problem.   Our media have by no means lost their interest in good "muckraking" where it is available, which it would be if that sort of abuse were common.   At any time that such a problem does actually come to exist, those who favor the market system will be well advised to reexamine the institutional-legal framework for corporations to be sure that existing management is still subject to market forces.  The defenses against hostile takeovers should never be allowed to become so effective that they insulate bad management from challenges.  Adjustments in corporation law to assure this should not be interpreted as attacks upon the corporate system, but as ways to assure its viability.

If corporate managers were mainly looters, such a situation would indicate a major deviation from a classical liberal atmosphere.   Individualistic liberalism presupposes a high ethical level.   Ethics are to be socially inculcated and enforced through family, school, church and peer group.   There has been a significant undermining of this ethical context due to a number of factors: the relativism of modern liberalism; the "do your own thing" libertarianism of the New Left and even of a good many superficial thinkers on the right; and the hedonism that arises out of the mixture of our intellectual shallowness and our affluence.   If "corporate looting" ever becomes a significant problem, much of the cause will be attributable to these factors, not to an inherent flaw in the structure of corporate capitalism.  [Note in 2002: In recent years, the proportion of executive compensation to that of average employees has multiplied many times over.  This gives rise to the question of whether top executive compensation is truly a response to “the market,” or whether perhaps the enormous compensation packages are not due, as market critics suggest, to the “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” atmosphere that may come to pervade corporate boards of directors when there is too much insulation from external forces.  The compensation packages do in some cases have the appearance of looting.  If so, classical liberals should themselves find it inconsistent with their own philosophy.] 

Before we leave the Berle-and-Means thesis, it is worth noting that there have been some important variations of it.   Probably the most significant of these are the "New Class" analyses, which assert that in modern life both the state and the large corporation are effectively in the hands of a uniform culture of technical, bureaucratized intellectuals.  This was the theme of John Kenneth Galbraith's The New Industrial State (1978).  "The decisive power in modern industrial society is exercised not by capital but by organization, not by the capitalist but by the industrial bureaucrat . . . There is no name for all who participate in group decision-making or the organization which they form.   I propose to call this organization the Technostructure."   Needless to say, Galbraith, a leading "liberal" at the same time that he is a self-proclaimed socialist, sees no legitimate "function" that is served by stockholders in such a setting.17

Overt calls for nationalization

While the New Nationalist school has used dissimulation to place at least a thin veil over the socialist content of its proposals, it is significant that liberal writing has on many occasions called for the outright nationalization of major industries in the United States.   As early as 1883, Lester Ward looked forward to government operation of "all private enterprises which concern the general public," although he said that first "there must be a gradual maturing of the conditions."18

During its first month of publication in November 1914, The New Republic called for the eventual government ownership of the railroads, with control in the workers.   "The nationalizing of the railroads has a chance of converting them into genuine agencies of the national economic interest."   The journal repeated the call in 1923 and 1931.   In the 1920s, liberals were enthusiastic about the Plumb Plan "for national ownership of the railroads and operation by a 'tripartite' board representing management, labor and the public."19

There has been a long-term campaign for the public ownership of utilities and of hostility toward private utility companies.   After the election in 1948, TRB praised President Truman by saying that "now we have in the White House a man with the most radical platform in presidential history . . . Truman advocates government ownership and operation of transmission lines from government dams right up to the consumers' electric stoves."   We recall, of course, the many proposals for "valley authorities," with their vast implications for regionally implemented socialism.20

Also included in the call for nationalization have been the telephone and telegraph systems.   In 1918, The New Republic said that "for a generation the sentiment for government telegraphs has been growing." 21

Government ownership has been urged for mines and natural resources.   In 1923, The New Republic reported the results of a poll showing that "the sentiment of liberals continues overwhelmingly in favor of public ownership of mines . . . ." For many years, the United Mine Workers called for the nationalization of the mines.   Robert Marshall advocated government ownership of forests in a 1934 article.   In 1946, the editors favored the continued federal ownership "of the rich submerged oil lands off the coasts."22

In 1924, The New Republic came out in favor of governmental construction of homes, arguing that private enterprise builds homes only for the wealthy.   In 1948, Henry Wallace argued that private home-construction had "failed miserably," and wanted a government program, in cooperation with business, to build  4 1/2 million homes.23

In 1928, Paul Blanshard called for municipal ownership of funeral businesses.  We recall how the original thinking for the T.V.A. included government ownership of a variety of small businesses.24

Banking is among the more significant areas for which nationalization has been urged.   In 1933, The New Republic editorialized that "the most desirable form of banking would obviously be a single, nationwide, government-owned and operated enterprise."   A year later, the editors said that "The New Republic [has] long [been] an advocate of complete socialization of banking . . . ."25

Soon after World War II, however, a distinct change in feeling toward nationalization occurred among European socialists and consequently among American liberals.   The Socialist International downplayed it at the time of the International's rebirth in 1951.   In 1959, the German Social Democrats abandoned nationalization, except with regard to energy.   The experience in England when the Atlee government tried nationalization after World War II was almost immediately seen as unfavorable.  In addition, the resurgence of nineteenth century-style decentralist socialist thinking within the Left after the events of 1956 caused a movement away from "state socialism," with which nationalization is necessarily identified.26

The New Freedom’s perspective

The "New Freedom," a name associated with Louis Brandeis and Woodrow Wilson, denotes a school of thought that contrasts with New Nationalism in its views about big business.   This school has not favored the existence of immense corporations.   It has not seen big business as a stepping-stone to socialism, and has not generally seen significant economies of scale in large enterprises.   What the New Freedom has favored has been a "regulated competition," through which government plays an active role in assuring the existence of truly competitive markets.   It has favored the nationalization of an industry where such competition cannot be maintained, and it has called upon the state to perform the many functions of the welfare state.

The combination of these ingredients was present, as an example, in a book by Paul Douglas, later a United States Senator, in 1935.   Broadus Mitchell's review said that Douglas "urges breaking up as many monopolies as possible . . . Where this policy fails . . . ownership will have to be socialized."27

Woodrow Wilson is, along with Brandeis, considered the original champion of the position, but a reading of his 1912 campaign speeches shows him to have been given to platitudes that were far from clear in content.   His performance as president was quite mixed on this issue.

We have seen how Franklin Delano Roosevelt began strongly in favor of the New Nationalism, and then, although perhaps remaining a New Nationalist at heart, switched to a not-very-resolute New Freedomite position in what is called the "Second New Deal."

There has been considerable activity in favor of New Freedom-style measures since World War II, probably reflecting a natural liberal preference for limiting the role of big business if it does not appear feasible at a given time to place large corporations under the wing of government.   In 1945, Alvin Hansen proposed changing the patent law to make "available all inventions and new processes to any user upon payment of a reasonable royalty."   In 1946, Senator James Murray of Montana proposed a plan in Congress for stronger anti-trust enforcement - with the alternative being public control.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Senator Estes Kefauver headed a committee in the Senate that called for stricter anti-merger rules.   Kefauver, too, called for the licensing of patents.   In 1950, The New Republic advocated the regulation of prices and wages where a large corporation's dissolution is not technically feasible.28

In 1960, Paul H. Douglas and Howard Shuman asked rhetorically: "Why...should not the giant industries be split up into almost as many companies as there are production units?"   In 1972, Peter Barnes reported that Senator Harris had introduced legislation to break up corporations in concentrated industries.   During the presidential campaign that year, Senator McGovern came out for a war against mergers.   John M. Blair's book Economic Concentration (1972) advocated "breaking up GM, GE and the others into their constituent parts," according to Bernard D. Nossiter.29

A New Republic article in 1974 reported that "Senator Philip Hart (D. Mich.), chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, is pushing for legislation that, for the first time, would make market dominance a basis for breaking up large firms in such oligopolistic industries as autos, steel, aluminum, chemicals, drugs, electrical machinery, computers, communications equipment and energy."30

In 1978, Morton Kondracke told his readers that "[Senator] Edward Kennedy favors . . . a break-up of the big oil companies," along with "deregulation and increased competition."   The following year, Lester Thurow reported that Kennedy offered a bill to bar conglomerate mergers where the companies had assets or annual sales exceeding two billion dollars.31

In 1982, Mark Green, in his book Winning Back America, called for statutorily established criteria about size: "Whenever a firm, or up to four firms, controls 50 percent of a market, it would have to be decentralized into smaller units unless they could argue by a preponderance of the evidence that economies of scale required their size."   Green also called for progressively higher income tax rates for corporations, depending upon their size and market share.32

It is worth pointing out that conservative thought includes its own division between supporters and opponents of vast corporate size.   Many classical liberals argue that growth to any size is a matter of right, and that in any case the problem of bigness has been exaggerated.   They argue that market processes, in the absence of governmental favoritism for some economic groups over others, will produce a healthy situation.

Other classical liberals, however, believe that the health of the market and of a free society is best served by size limitations, and argue that the legal framework of a free society can rightfully state such limits.  I count myself among the latter group, since I believe that a market system, to function at its best, requires more of a "framework" of laws and institutions than many market enthusiasts are willing to admit.   I would point to the fact that corporate size has given the Left some of its best ammunition against the market, and for many has provided a potential vehicle for collectivization.


1. See Dwight D. Murphey, Burkean Conservatism and Classical Liberalism (Washington: University Press of America, 1982), pp. 426-428; Dwight D. Murphey, Socialist Thought (Washington: University Press of America, 1983), pp. 279-281.

2. The earlier discussions in the present book are in Chapters 2 and 3. 

3. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. 3, Chap. 27; the passage is quoted in Maurice Cornforth, The Open Philosophy and the Open Society (New York: International Publishers, 1968), p. 191.

4. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (New York: Signet Classic, 1960), pp. 53, 54.

5. Bellamy, Looking Backward, p. xvi.

6. New Republic, October 21, 1925, p. 214; Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1914), p. 358.

7. New Republic, March 25, 1931, p. 144.

8. New Republic, April 3, 1961, p. 10; New Republic, April 10, 1961, p. 2; John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 3rd ed., 1978), p. 408.

9. As to worker control, see Mark Green, Winning Back America (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982), pp. 42, 43, 52, and New Republic, November 25, 1981, p. 29. As to co-determination, see New Republic, November 24, 1973, p. 17, and Green,  Winning Back America, pp. 44-45.

10. New Republic, June 5, 1961, p. 12.

11. New Republic, January 5, 1974, p. 14; New Republic, September 8, 1973, p. 29.

12. A. A. Berle, Jr., and Gardiner C. Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1956), p. 5.

13. Berle and Means, Modern Corporation, p. 356.

14. G. D. H. Cole, Labour in the Commonwealth (London: Headley Bros. Publishers, Ltd., no date given), p. 107; Thomas Kirkup, History of Socialism (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909), p. 356.

15. Lester Ward, Lester Ward and the Welfare State, Henry Steele Commager, editor (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1967), p. 186; Jerome Frank, Save America First (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 3rd ed., 1938), p. 282.

16. New Republic, January 30, 1915, p. 8; New Republic, February 6, 1915, p. 7; New Republic, July 14, 1920, p. 198; New Republic, August 4, 1920, p. 280; New Republic, September 29, 1920, p. 112; New Republic, September 7, 1921, p. 37.

17. Galbraith, New Industrial State, pp. xv, 74, 409.

18. Ward, Lester Ward, p. 55.

19. New Republic, November 21, 1914, p. 12; New Republic, February 7, 1923, p. 266; New Republic, July 25, 1923, p. 238; New Republic, June 10, 1931, p. 85.

20. New Republic, November 28, 1914, p. 29; New Republic, November 15, 1948, p. 3.

21. New Republic, July 6, 1918, p. 275. 22. New Republic, July 11, 1923, p. 164; New Republic, February 6, 1924, p. 268; New Republic, June 27, 1934, p. 176; New Republic, September 23, 1946, p. 374.

23. New Republic, March 5, 1924, p. 41; New Republic, March 1, 1948, p. 10.

24. New Republic, August 22, 1928, p. 17.

25. New Republic, March 15, 1933, p. 118; New Republic, September 5, 1934, p. 89.

26. New Republic, August 6, 1951, p. 10; New Republic, November 30, 1959, p. 8.

27. New Republic, August 28, 1935, p. 81.

28. New Republic, January 1, 1945, p. 11; New Republic, January 21, 1946, p. 75; New Republic, January 13, 1947, p. 30; Estes Kefauver, In a Few Hands: Monopoly Power in America (New York: Pantheon Books, 1965); New Republic, January 16, 1950, p. 9.

29. New Republic, September 26, 1960, p. 18; New Republic, January 22, 1972, p. 19; New Republic, June 24, 1972, p. 23; New Republic, December 9, 1972, p. 26.

30. New Republic, July 6, 1974, p. 17.

31. New Republic, September 23, 1978, p. 12; New Republic, April 28, 1979, p. 10.

32. Green, Winning Back America, pp. 47, 49.