The Modern Corporation and Private Property Revisited: Gardiner Means and the Administered Price

32 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2018 Last revised: 18 Jan 2020

See all articles by William W. Bratton

William W. Bratton

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; University of Miami School of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: 2019


This essay views The Modern Corporation and Private Property from the perspective of its junior coauthor, Gardiner Means. Means generated the book’s statistical showings of deepening corporate concentration and widening separation of ownership and control, studies also included in a Ph.D. dissertation Means successfully submitted to the Harvard economics department a year after the book’s publication. The dissertation also included a chapter, never published and rejected by the dissertation committee, that set out a theory administered prices. The theory lays out the statistical results’ implications for public policy. In Means’s view, Adam Smith’s picture of supply, demand, and automatic market correction had been partially eclipsed by inflexible pricing administered by corporate managers. Growing corporate concentration exacerbated these “administrated” prices’ distortionary effects. The theory explained the Great Depression’s persistence and yielded a detailed list of problems to be addressed by a new regulatory state. The chapter, only alluded to in the book, provides essential explication of its excursuses on corporate power and social welfare, for it explains in hard economic terms just what Berle and Means thought that “neutral technocrats” in the corporate sector could do to make the economy work better. The essay goes on to describe Means’s later articulations of the theory and to compare his later career path to that of Berle.

Keywords: Berle & Means, separation of ownership & control, corporate governance, corporate legal history, corporatism, theory of administered prices, corporate concentration, inflexible prices

JEL Classification: B15, B31, D43, G30, K22

Suggested Citation

Bratton, William Wilson, The Modern Corporation and Private Property Revisited: Gardiner Means and the Administered Price (2019). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 591, 2019, U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 18-29, European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) - Law Working Paper No. 443/2019, Available at SSRN: or

William Wilson Bratton (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )



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