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One of President Roosevelt's most appealing intellectual claims for the New Deal was that it would experiment with policy, and would discard the experiments which failed to work. It is time to admit that the enterprise represented in the Bituminous Coal Act of 1937 is an experiment which has failed, and, in the nature of the coal industry, had to fail. On April 26, 1941, the Act ceases to be in effect. It should not be renewed.
The Act, providing for the establishment of minimum prices in the coal trade, is one of a series of depression developments which radically changed our price policy. But the Great Depression of the thirties is over, and this is a favorable time to appraise the institutions which grew out of it. It is especially urgent to reconsider the statutes and habits which constitute price policy, for the success of present and future plans toward the development of the economy largely depend on the way in which industry is organized, and its product sold. During the last ten years the competitive forces in many areas of the economy have been restricted, and non-competitive arrangements have been created in the name of "stabilization" and other slogans. The machinery controlling the trade in soft coal is a case in point; the development of that institution offers material for studying the origins, the methods, and the consequences of many such schemes of restrictive regulation.
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