The paper reinterprets Keynes’s analysis of the crisis in the Lancashire cotton industry in the 1920s. It presents empirical evidence showing that syndicates of local shareholders, but not the banks, were an important brake on firms exiting, at a time when exit barriers were otherwise unproblematic in this competitive industry. Moreover, syndicates milked firms of any profits through dividends, thereby limiting reinvestment and re-equipment possibilities. The case shows that where laissez-faire fails in response to a crisis, the associated response may need to assess both ownership structure and its relationship to competitive industry structure
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