Abstract: Toward a Fragile Compromise: Political Left and Right on Swedish Cartel Legislation, 1925-1993

John Lapidus


Cartel agreements used to be a natural part of economic life in most European countries. Today, cartels are banned all over. Few if any studies have seen the drastic changes in cartel laws mainly as a consequence of ideological changes on the national level, leading to new compromises between the political parties and their closest allied interest groups. The most important ideological change, with effects on cartel legislation, can be found within European Social Democracy. As long as the idea of socialization was prevailing the Social Democrats wanted lenient laws on cartels, making possible a broad but fragile political consensus on treating them gently. Not until the idea of socialization was abandoned were the Social Democrats free to be much more critical of cartels. But in order to reach the opposite consensus—prohibition of cartels—the Social Democrats also had to give up the idea that competition laws should deal only with companies in the private sector. Integrating the public sector in the legislation was a demand made, for example, by the Conservatives, to whom such integration was more important than a continuous support for the cartel-friendly position held by private industry.