Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

From Marx to Berle & Means: ideas supporting state-owned firms, 1930-1960

Santos Redondo Manuel, Uno Complutense, Madrid

State owned enterprises, be it nationalized o built anew, were in fashion in Europe after WWII. In United Kingdom, Labour Party leader Clement Attlee won the 1945 election, and then started a program of nationalizations of public utilities and major industries. By 1951, 20% of the British economy was public ownership. In France, “provisional government” led by Charles de Gaulle in 1944-1946, with wide political support from political parties, nationalized credit, energy resources and insurance. In Italy, before WWII, Mussolini’s government during 1930s put an important part of Italian banks and industry under government control. And this was not reversed immediately after WWII. In Spain, following Italy’s example, many economic sectors were in control of the State (Toninelli 2000). The economic ideas underlying those decisions had been growing in 1930s. Its most important intellectual landmark is Berle & Means 1932. They claim that big companies have become more efficient, professionally managed, and so less vulnerable to owner’s interference. It follows easily that, if this company is state-owned, there are no loss of efficiency. Many economists, like Keynes, have the same general view: “We must take full advantage of the natural tendencies of the day, and we must probably prefer semi-autonomous corporations to organs of the central government for which ministers of State are directly responsible. (Keynes, 1926). This general consensus would last until oil crisis of 1973. But these ideas, and their influence, can be traced to Marx and Engels, and their view of progress of industry, which means that technological innovation made the scale of production bigger every day. This would lead, in Marx view, to revolution. For Berle & Means, and for Keynes, it meant something softer. So, when ideas in favor of state owned enterprises came to realization after WWII, but they had wide intellectual and political support. Communist parties were important in Europe, especial


Keywords: Marx; State-owned enterprise

Paper file