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From 50 Years Ago: Blind Man’s Swipe

Vol II, Nos 33, 34 & 35 august 1967

Blind Man’s Swipe

The monopolies bill is not the first piece of legislation which seeks to vest wide powers in Government to regulate economic activity in the private sector. There are many laws, and corresponding agencies, to regulate all forms of industrial and commercial organisation and activity. What has been missing is a clear sense of direction and purpose, and the will to exercise statutory powers where their exercise is called for. Even the stray cases in which
action has been initiated have got bogged down as a result of either the lethargy of the Government or the ability of wealthy litigants to exploit to the maximum the long delays inherent in our judicial procedures. One can be pardoned, therefore, for being less than enthusiastic about the Monopolies Bill which covers almost every branch of economic activity.

It had become clear during the past few months that Government intended to go well beyond the draft bill prepared by the Dasgupta Commission which had concentrated on monopolistic and restrictive trade practices. This the Government could not avoid for the motive force behind pressures in Parliament and outside for anti-monopoly policies was the desire to reduce the economic power of large business groups. …

The basic issue remains of the environment in which an orthodox anti-monopoly policy can be devised or made to operate effectively. Action against monopolistic or restrictive practices in even a limited sector of activity requires prior acceptance of some kind of competition as an ideal. This, in turn, demands policies which promote competition and which allow a competitive environment to prevail. Laws and Commissions are no substitute for that. This in turn presupposes a clear understanding of the role of the market within the limits set by planning; such understanding has been lacking so far. After all, talk about curbing monopoly and restrictive trade practices can be meaningful only when market goals are defined in addition to overall planning objectives.

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