(Countervailing Power): Das von John Kenneth Galbraith erstmals 1954 formulierte Gegenmachtprinzip der Wettbewerbspolitik, nach dem auf dem Markt stets Gegenkräfte vorhanden sind, die dem Mißbrauch wirtschaftlicher Macht entgegenwirken und auf lange Sicht seine Ausbreitung verhindern. Ursprünglich eine Vorstellung der Möglichkeit einer Neutralisierung von Anbietermacht, wurde sie später auch auf die Neutralisierung von Nachfragermacht ausgedehnt.
Galbraith beschrieb das Prinzip mit den Worten: “Competition which, at least since the time of Adam Smith, has been viewed as the autonomous regulator of economic activity and as the only available regulatory mechanism apart from the state, has, in fact, been superseded. Not entirely, to oe sure. I snoula uKe t0 oe explicit on mis point. Competition still plays a role. There are still important markets where the power of the firm as (say) a seller is checked or circumscribed by those who provide a similar or a substitute product or service. This, in the broadest sense that can be meaningful, is the meaning of competition. The role of the buyer on the other side of such markets is essentially a passive one. It consists in looking for, perhaps asking for, and responding to the best bargain. The active restraint is provided by the competitor who offers, or threatens to offer, a better bargain. However, this is not the only or even the typical restraint on the exercise of economic power. In the typical modern market of few sellers, the active restraint is provided not by competitors but from the other side of the market by strong buyers. Given the convention against price competition, it is the role of the competitor that becomes passive in these markets. It was always one of the basic presuppositions of competition that market power exercised in its absence would invite the competitors who would eliminate such exercise of power. The profits of a monopoly position inspired competitors to try for a share. In other words competition was regarded as a self-generating regulatory force. The doubt whether this was in fact so after a market had been pre-empted by a few large sellers, after entry of new firms had become difficult and after existing firms had accepted a convention against price competition, was what destroyed the faith in competition as a regulatory mechanism.
Countervailing power is also a self-generating force and this is a matter of great importance. Something, although not very much, could be claimed for the regulatory role of the strong buyer in relation to the market power of sellers, did it happen that, as an accident of economic development, such strong buyers were frequently juxtaposed to strong sellers. However, the tendency of power to be organized in response to a given position of power is the vital characteristic of the phenomenon I am here identifying. Power on one side of a market creates both the need for, and the prospect of reward to, the exercise of countervailing power from the other side. This means that, as a common rule, we can rely on countervailing power to appear as a curb on economic power.”
Tatsächlich stellen die verschiedenen Formen der Kooperation mittelständischer Unternehmen im Handel, z.B. in Form von Genossenschaften oder freiwilligen Ketten nichts anderes als eine Weise der vertikalen Bildung von Marktgegengewichten dar. Zu den Erscheinungsformen der Verwirklichung des Gegenmachtprinzips zählen z.B. auch der Verbraucherschutz, die Ökologiebewegung, die Aktivitäten von Bürgerinitiativen usw.
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