BIG BUSINESS AND PRESIDENTIAL POWER: From FDR to Reagan by Kim McQuaid

BIG BUSINESS AND PRESIDENTIAL POWER: From FDR to Reagan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

During the New Deal, presidential power increased, the political economy changed, and a new, change-oriented business leadership emerged--whose activities, to the present, form the subject of Lake Erie College historian McQuaid's useful if not particularly insightful narrative history. The interest of progressive executives like GE's Gerard Swope in a government-business alliance led to formation, in 1933, of the Business Council--comprising heads of 60 of the nation's largest corporations--under Department of Commerce auspices. In concept and in practice, the Business Council would initiate liberalization and act as a brake on radicalization; it would secure anti-trust relaxation and assure the predominance of big over small business. (The Social Security System, for instance, reflects the Business Council's plan rather than the payment-from-general-revenues approach favored by retirees' organizations or, on the other hand, the total opposition of small business and its representative, the Chamber of Commerce.) Other early Business Council luminaries--Stettinius of US Steel, Harriman of the Union Pacific--helped fashion a WW II policy of industrial recovery through guaranteed military contracts and a postwar policy of internationalism and containment. The Committee for Economic Development, a 1942 Council offshoot fashioned by Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones, helped business plan for postwar conversion. The Council remained active, though relatively dormant, through the Eisenhower administration and into the Kennedy years. Then, with the growth of consumer movements and regulatory agencies, a new activist group emerged from the now-inert (and formally private) Council: the Business Roundtable. Typically, the Roundtable--which includes 70 of the top 100 Fortune 500 firms--extracted concessions for going along with Carter's price-control scheme that effectively gutted the program. None of this is a revelation--and neither is it analyzed. (McQuaid tends to explain differences within the big-business group, for example, in terms of personalities.) But just having the material clearly separated out will enable students to draw inferences from it.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Morrow