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Letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on the Problem of Concentration of Economic Power.

July 09, 1949

[Released July 9, 1949. Dated July 8, 1949]

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I was glad to get your letter of June 30 about the special subcommittee you have appointed to undertake a broad inquiry into the anti-trust laws.

I am whole-heartedly in favor of your subcommittee's objectives as you have outlined them to me.

Since the end of the war, other matters, both foreign and domestic, have at times appeared to overshadow the monopoly problem, or at least have been the subject of greater public pre-occupation. But it is my conviction that year in and year out, there is no more serious problem affecting our country and its free institutions than the distortions and abuses of our economic system which result when unenlightened free enterprise turns to monopoly. I have watched this situation carefully and I have made sure that the agencies in the Executive branch with responsibilities in this field have discharged them as effectively as their statutory powers and appropriations would permit. Moreover, I have repeatedly called to the attention of the Congress the need for stronger powers and more active measures with which to wage the never-ending fight against monopoly.

Thus, in my State of the Union Message in January, 1947, I said:

"The second major policy f desire to lay before you has to do with the growing concentration of economic power and the threat to free competition in private enterprise. In 1941 the Temporary National Economic Committee completed a comprehensive investigation into the workings of the national economy. The Committee's study showed that, despite half a century of antitrust law enforcement, one of the gravest threats to our welfare lay in the increasing concentration of power in the hands of a small number of giant organizations.

"During the war, this long-standing tendency toward economic concentration was accelerated. As a consequence, we now find that to a greater extent than ever before, whole industries are dominated by one or a few large organizations which can restrict production in the interest of higher profits and thus reduce employment and purchasing power.

"In an effort to assure full opportunity and free competition to business we will vigorously enforce the antitrust laws. There is much the Congress can do to cooperate and assist in this program.

"To strengthen and enforce the laws that regulate business practices is not enough. Enforcement must be supplemented by positive measures of aid to new enterprises. Government assistance, research programs, and credit powers should be designed and used to promote the growth of new firms and new industries. Assistance to small business is particularly important at this time when thousands of veterans who are potential business and industrial leaders are beginning their careers.

"We should also give special attention to the decentralization of industry and the development of areas that are now underindustrialized."

Again, in my State of the Union Message in January, 1948, I told the Congress:

"Growth and vitality in our economy depend on vigorous private enterprise. Free competition is the key to industrial development, full production and employment, fair prices, and an ever improving standard of living. Competition is seriously limited today in many industries by the concentration of economic power and other elements of monopoly. The appropriation of sufficient funds to permit proper enforcement of the present antitrust laws is essential. Beyond that we should go on to strengthen our legislation to protect competition."

In June of that year, I vetoed the Reed-Bulwinkle bill, which authorized certain exemptions from the anti-trust laws for interstate carriers. In my veto message, I said:

"I have repeatedly urged upon the Congress the necessity for a vigorous anti, monopoly program. This bill would be inconsistent with such a program."

The 80th Congress, however, overrode my veto.

In my State of the Union Message this year, I said:

"If our free-enterprise economy is to be strong and healthy we must reinvigorate the forces of competition. We must assure small business the freedom and opportunity to grow and prosper. To this purpose, we should strengthen our antitrust laws by dosing those loopholes that permit monopolistic mergers and consolidations."

I am gratified, therefore, to learn that your subcommittee is undertaking a serious wind scale study of the anti-trust laws for the purpose of determining in what respects they can be made more effective in preventing monopoly and developing a competitive economy.

I am glad to request the agencies referred to in your letter to cooperate fully with your subcommittee in this work. I enclose a copy of the memorandum which I have sent to the various agency heads on this subject. I have added a few agencies to the list you furnished because it seemed to me that your subcommittee might find occasion to call on them for assistance.

With all good wishes for the success of your work in this most important field,

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Emanuel Celler, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives]

Note: The memorandum directing agency cooperation with the subcommittee follows:

Memorandum to: The Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Commerce, Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, Chairman, Interstate Commerce Commission, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, Chairman, Federal Power Commission:

Chairman Celler, of the House Committee on the Judiciary, has appointed a special subcommittee to undertake a broad inquiry into the anti-trust laws. Mr. Celler has indicated to me that he and his subcommittee wish to work in the closest cooperation with the Federal agencies that are concerned with the field of this inquiry.

I strongly favor the objectives of the Celler subcommittee. I am hopeful that its work will produce constructive recommendations and results.

I therefore request that you and your agency give Mr. Celler and his subcommittee the fullest possible cooperation and assistance, subject only to jurisdictional and appropriation limitations.


Mr. Celler's letter of June so was not released by the White House.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on the Problem of Concentration of Economic Power. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229689

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