Collusion and combines in Canada, 1880–1890
Scandinavian Economic History Review, 2020, vol. 68, issue 1, 66-84
It is a little-known fact that Canada adopted its own antitrust law one year before the landmark Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The Anti-Combines Act of 1889 (‘the Act’) was adopted after a decade in which ‘combines’ (the Canadian equivalent of ‘trusts’) had grown more numerous. From the combines’ numbers, Canadian historians, legal scholars, and economists have inferred that consumer welfare was hindered. However, price and output evidence has never been marshalled to provide even a first step towards assessing the veracity of this inference. This paper undertakes that task. I highlight the fact that the output from industries accused of collusion increased faster than national output in the decade before the passage of the Act and that their prices accordingly fell faster than the national price index. I argue that these findings militate for the position that the origins of Canada's Anti-Combines Act were partially rooted in rent-seeking processes similar to those that American scholars have found driving the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
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