The Rise of Planning in Industrial America, 1865-1914 shows that the giant corporations that dominated the American economy through the 20th century were, first and foremost, unprecedented examples of successful, consensual central planning at a very large scale.
Richard Adelstein’s use of the word “planning” to describe corporate management will seem jarring to some. But he draws interesting connections between discussions of corporate management and the interwar debate regarding central planning. He concludes that there are both economies and diseconomies associated with planning, and thus bureaucracies—whether private or public—can usefully plan certain aspects of economic activity but should not aspire to planning an entire economy. As the author notes, the successes achieved by corporate planning encouraged experiments with government planning later. The book is also rightly critical of economists for ignoring the internal workings of firms for so long and it discusses how courts came to endow corporations with all of the rights of individuals.