The Anti-Chain Store Movement, Localist Ideology, and the Remnants of the Progressive Constitution, 1920-1940
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The rapid expansion of chain stores during the 1920s and 30s, especially the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P), excited significant popular opposition. Chain store opponents, including Justice Louis Brandeis, argued that the chains were undermining the small, independent retailer and destroying America's small towns, and that the concentration of economic capital in large corporate entities threatened democratic citizenship. These localist and decentralist arguments were taken seriously by state legislatures, many of which adopted anti-chain store tax laws, and by Congress, which adopted amendments to the federal antitrust laws. This Article revives these arguments in order to describe a progressive, localist constitutionalism that has been lost since the late New Deal. The Article also uses the legal history of the anti-chain store movement to gain perspective on current debates about globalization and the anti-big-box store movements of today.