Jonathan Chausovsky’s article “From Bureau to Trade Commission: Agency Reputation in the Statebuilding Enterprise,” has been accepted for publication at the Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era (JGAPE). It is expected out next summer.
Abstract: Existing scholarship has explored the influences of societal interests and electoral imperatives on the creation of the Federal Trade Commission. By contrast, I suggest that the reputation and network influences of an existing Federal agency, the Bureau of Corporations, also impacted its creation. Building on the concept of Bureaucratic Autonomy, I examine the structure of the Bureau, its network, and its preferences. Leaders favored a clear separation from the Department of Justice, and argued a quasi-judicial process for antitrust would be more effective than the courts. They advocated discretion in covering small firms, mandatory annual reports, and the absence of authority to clear business agreements in advance. Well before the 1914 debates, leaders at the Bureau directed substantial funds towards influencing trust legislation. They contacted academics and civic leaders, tracked existing legislative proposals, and analyzed key legal terms. Internal studies examined key questions, such as how to define and regulate unfair trade practices. They argued Congress could never define these in legislation, but a bureaucracy with appropriate authority could adapt to changing business practices. When the Bureau became the nucleus of the FTC, it received much of the discretionary power it sought.