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Decartelization is the transition of a national economy from monopoly control by groups of large businesses, known as cartels, to a free market economy. This change rarely arises naturally, and is generally the result of regulation by a governing body with monopoly of power to decide what structures it likes.
To truly understand the term “decartelization” requires familiarity with the term “cartel”. A cartel is a formal (explicit) agreement among firms. Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where there are a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products. Cartel members may agree on such matters as price fixing, total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories, bid rigging, establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these. The aim of such collusion is to increase individual member's profits by reducing competition. Competition laws forbid cartels. Identifying and breaking up cartels is an important part of the competition policy in most countries, although proving the existence of a cartel is rarely easy, as firms are usually not so careless as to put agreements to collude on paper.
Examples of alleged and legal monopolies:
- The salt commission, a legal monopoly in China formed in 758.
- British East India Company; created as a legal trading monopoly in 1600.
- Dutch East India Company; created as a legal trading monopoly in 1602.
- U.S. Steel; anti-trust prosecution failed in 1911.
- Standard Oil; broken up in 1911.
- National Football League; survived anti-trust lawsuit in the 1960s, convicted of being an illegal monopoly in the 1980s.
- Major League Baseball; survived U.S. anti-trust litigation in 1922, though its special status is still in dispute as of 2008.
- United Aircraft and Transport Corporation; aircraft manufacturer holding company forced to divest itself of airlines in 1934.
- American Telephone & Telegraph; telecommunications giant broken up in 1982.
- Microsoft; settled anti-trust litigation in the U.S. in 2001; fined by the European Commission in 2004, which was upheld for the most part by the Court of First Instance of the European Communities in 2007. The fine was 1.35 billion USD in 2008 for noncompliance with the 2004 rule.
- De Beers; settled charges of price fixing in the diamond trade in the 2000s. (See De Beers Diamonds Antitrust Litigation.)
- Apple Inc., Accused of forming a Vertical Monopoly, with iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store, and the FairPlay DRM System.
- Joint Commission; has a monopoly over whether or not US hospitals are able to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
- Telecom New Zealand; local loop unbundling enforced by central government.
The general debate with decartelization is a national economy controlled by monopolies and cartels, versus a free market economy. With a free market economy, the pros are very clear. It encourages individual initiatives; it determines price of goods through competition, and motivates people to work towards financial freedom. Most individuals would prefer a free market economy, where there are many buyers and sellers in each market, and the prices are determined based on competition alone. The problem is, it is not up to the individuals. In most cases of cartels, these secret arrangements are done “under the radar”, and these major companies know how to cover their tracks. It is very difficult to prove that companies have formed a cartel; therefore it is very difficult to dismantle one.
In the case with the Third Reich in Germany, the people had no choice. In fact, many people were opposed to the idea of these “cartels” controlling the German economy. During the war, there was a school called Soziate Marktwirtschaft, the "socially conscious free market." Members of this school hated totalitarianism and had propounded their views at some risk during Hitler's regime. Wrote Henry Wallich, "During the Nazi period the school represented a kind of intellectual resistance movement, requiring great personal courage as well as independence of mind." The school's members believed in free markets, along with some slight degree of progression in the income tax system and government action to limit monopoly.
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