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.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


This paper was revised on October 10, 2014

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20231

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Lindert w20232 Making the Most of Capital in the 21st Century
Guinnane, Harris, and Lamoreaux w20481 Contractual Freedom and the Evolution of Corporate Control in Britain, 1862 to 1929
Hilt w20356 History of American Corporate Governance: Law, Institutions, and Politics
Fernández and Wong w20251 Free to Leave? A Welfare Analysis of Divorce Regimes
Crucini and Smith w20247 Geographic Barriers to Commodity Price Integration: Evidence from US Cities and Swedish Towns, 1732-1860
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us