• U.S.

Business: Unpriced Lumber

2 minute read

Price-fixing was written into the Oil Code on the ground that it would help conserve a great natural resource. Hordes of hungry businessmen from other prostrate industries were soon loudly demanding the same thing. Before the battle of the codes was done, NRA was fixing garage rentals, dry-cleaning charges and the price of a shampoo. Out of 677 codes in force today, no less than 510 provide for some measure of price control.

Yet the Administration never really made up its mind on the problem. It approved “cost protection,” “loss limitation” and all the other pretty names for price-fixing with serious misgivings. First to gowere the service codes. Last week the National Industrial Recovery Board struck price-fixing from a basic industry code—Lumber. The job of policing 1,000,000 different prices in an industry composed of thousands of individual units was too much of a chore.

Southern hardwood lumbermen openly defied NRA to enforce code prices after they were offered a huge order from Fisher Body Corp. (TIME, Sept. 17). In the softwood regions of the Northwest chiseling was the rule. To keep a finger on the chaotic industry, NIRB last week made a point of retaining the Lumber Code’s production control.

Despite the fact that price-fixing— price-raising at the start—often cut into volume, reduced employment and retarded recovery, an amazing number of businessmen are still enthusiastic about it. But last fortnight S. (for Samuel) Clay Williams, NIRB Chairman, revealed that the Administration would frown on any attempt to inject price-fixing provisions into new NRA legislation, arguing that an NRA floor under wages was, in effect, a floor under prices.

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