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Business-Managed Democracy

“Business-managed democracies are those in which the political and cultural arrangements are managed in the interests of business”

Sharon Beder

Business-Managed Government

National Civic Federation (NCF)


One of the earliest policy discussion groups in the US was the National Civic Federation (NCF) which had close ties to the Republican Party. It was formed in 1900 and made up of business leaders as well as government officials, journalists, academics and union leaders who were opposed to socialism and too much government intervention. Its members included prominent business leaders, such as Andrew Carnegie, and several partners in the banking group J. P. Morgan.


The NCF was utilized by the private electricity companies early in the twentieth century when they decided that state regulation of private electricity monopolies was preferable to public ownership of electricity. To achieve this end Samuel Insull, who was  head of the electricity association and a member of NCF, got NCF to set up a Commission on Public Ownership which undertook a study of electricity provision (1905-7). Whilst seeking to appear objective the study had particular ends in mind. Participants were carefully selected from the utilities, banks, railroads, unions, manufacturers and professions.


The study was largely funded by private utilities and their allies who were told that their contributions would be used ‘to combat municipal ownership’. Not surprisingly the study concluded that regulated monopolies, as opposed to competing companies, were the best way to provide electricity. The NCF therefore drafted model legislation which was promoted by the private utilities in the states where they operated. It was adopted in 13 states including New York, Wisconsin and Massachusetts in 1907.

The NCF was soon eclipsed by other policy groups.

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