MicroLesson Three: The U.S. government began to regulate businesses in the later half of the 1800s. The Sherman Act of 1890 was the first piece of legislation to control businesses.
A good way to look at the intent of the law can be found from a courst case in 1993 (in Spectrum Sports, Inc. v. McQuillan) where the judge wrote that "The purpose of the [Sherman] Act is not to protect businesses from the working of the market; it is to protect the public from the failure of the market. The law directs itself not against conduct which is competitive, even severely so, but against conduct which unfairly tends to destroy competition itself." So note that it is the failure of the market that is the focus here, so the free-market is vulnerable and occasionally needs to be protected.
The other important item to note is that it is not just businesses that are regulated by the Sherman Act, unions that have had too much power have also been regulated.
The main takeaway from this lesson is that the federal government first began to regulate business in the late 1800s (1890).
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