'The Mother of Combines': 
Representations of the United States in Early Canadian Discourse on the Combines Problem and the Formation of Canadian National Identity

Canadian Journal of Law & Society, Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2020

Date Written: October 26, 2020

Abstract

In late 1887, Canada was swept up in a fervor over the impact and scope of so-called “combines”, a blanket term used to cover price-fixing schemes, pool agreements, trusts, and other cartel and monopoly arrangements. The public debate that ensued ultimately led to the passage in 1889 of the Anti-Combines Act, the world’s first modern competition statute, enacted a year prior to the United States’ more famous Sherman Antitrust Act. But while in this case Canada acted before its neighbor to the south, the United States remained omnipresent in public and parliamentary debates on the combines problem. Canadian discourse referred to the United States in at least four ways during the combines debates: as a benchmark against which the Canadian economy and the combines problem should be judged; as a model for potential legal action, as a potential economic liberator through the power of free trade; and as the very source and propagator or the combines problem. Canadians thus alternately presented the United States as savior or devil, as paragon or antithesis. The result was a paradox of a sort: Canadians borrowed American ideas in order to avoid becoming American.

Keywords: Canadian Legal History, Antitrust Law, Competition Law, Legal History

Suggested Citation

Hoffman, Charlotte, 'The Mother of Combines': 
Representations of the United States in Early Canadian Discourse on the Combines Problem and the Formation of Canadian National Identity (October 26, 2020). Canadian Journal of Law & Society, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3719471 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3719471

Charlotte Hoffman (Contact Author)

FreeState Justice ( email )

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