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Personnel is Policy: Regulatory Capture at the Federal Trade Commission, 1914–1929

Patrick Newman

Journal of Institutional Economics, 2019, vol. 15, issue 6, 1037-1053

Abstract: This paper uses the concept of “Personnel is Policy†to extend the theory of regulatory capture to the political appointment of agency commissioners. The “Personnel is Policy†theory provides three important insights. First, it shows that whether or not an interest group benefits from a regulatory agency depends on the particular individuals appointed to run it. Second, the president plays an important role in regulatory capture by nominating individuals to be appointed to the commission. Third, regulatory capture does not follow a pre-determined path because the commissioners continually change. The theory is then used to explain the early years of a prominent regulatory agency created during the Progressive Era: the Federal Trade Commission. From the perspective of the big business “trust†interest group, their success at capturing the FTC to achieve their goals of controlling competition and blocking hostile antitrust actions was largely a result of who was appointed to the commission. The trusts were the most successful during the years of 1915–1916 and 1925–1929.

Date: 2019
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