The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • Leonard W. Weiss
Reference work entry


A cartel, according to Webster, can be either ‘a written agreement between belligerent nations’ such as a prisoner exchange arrangement, or ‘a voluntary, often international combination of independent private enterprises supplying like commodities or services’ (Webster’s 1967). The second concept is our concern here. The majority of cartels have dealt with national or smaller markets, but many of the best known have been international in coverage. Economists often distinguish private cartels and public cartels. In the latter, the government theoretically makes the rules, typically under strong influence from the affected industry and enforces them. Private cartels involve private agreements. They may or may not be publicly enforced depending on the nation, the period and the agreement. Some international cartels are private, but the best known have resulted from agreements among national governments.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard W. Weiss
    • 1
  1. 1.