Revisiting American Exceptionalism: Democracy and the Regulation of Corporate Governance: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Pennsylvania in Comparative Context
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Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo, editors
The legal rules governing businesses’ organizational choices have varied across nations along two main dimensions: the number of different forms that businesses can adopt; and the extent to which businesses have the contractual freedom to modify the available forms to suit their particular needs. Until the late twentieth century, businesses in the United States had a narrower range of forms from which to choose than their counterparts in these other countries had, and they also had much less ability to modify the basic forms contractually. This chapter uses the case of Pennsylvania to argue that the sources of this “American exceptionalism” reside in the interplay between the early achievement of universal (white) manhood suffrage and elite efforts to safeguard property rights.
This paper was revised on October 6, 2014
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