Samuel Evan MilnerAug 17, 2022
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
Power, Profits, and Productivity in Modern America
Yale University Press 2021
Concentrated market power and the weakened sway of corporate stakeholders over management have emerged as leading concerns of American political economy.
In his book Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Power, Profits, and Productivity in Modern America (Yale UP, 2021), economic historian Samuel Milner provides a context for contemporary efforts to resolve these anxieties by examining the contest to control the distribution of corporate income during the mid‑twentieth century.
During this “Golden Age of American Capitalism,” apprehension about the debilitating consequences of industrial concentration fueled efforts to ensure that management would share the fruits of progress with workers, consumers, and society as a whole (“stakeholders”). Focusing on wage and price determination in steel, automobiles, and electrical equipment, Milner reveals how the management of concentrated industries understood its ability to distribute income to its stakeholders as well as why economists, courts, and public policymakers struggled to curtail the exercise of that market power at its source. The book could not be timelier, given the recent rise of inflation, wage price pressure, and supply shocks, as well as renewed interest in labor organization and anti-trust legislation.
John Emrich has worked for decades in corporate finance, business valuation and fund management. He has a podcast about the investment advisory industry called Kick the Dogma.