NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Revisiting American Exceptionalism: Democracy and the Regulation of Corporate Governance in Nineteenth-Century Pennsylvania

Naomi R. Lamoreaux

NBER Working Paper No. 20231
Issued in June 2014
NBER Program(s):   DAE

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 needs. Until the late twentieth century, businesses in the U.S. had a narrower range of forms from which to choose than their counterparts in these other countries and also much less ability to modify the basic forms contractually. This article 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.

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This paper was revised on October 10, 2014

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20231

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