In 1883, the British wire industry adopted a standard gauge to measure sizes of wire and wire products. Wire sizes were one of the indicators of the quality of wire products and wire gauges were the crucial technology that made such measurements possible. The standard gauge replaced more than 40 different gauges that were in use in different parts of the country. The emergence of the standardized version of the gauge was the result of intense negotiation, acrimonious debate, and reluctant compromise between rival manufacturers and users of wire products. In an industry characterized by horizontal and vertical specialization, and widespread agency issues due to multiple quality standards, the entrenched interests of small and large firms prevented the introduction of a scientifically derived solution. The state acted as an arbitrator between rival interests as firms cooperated with potential competitors to prevent the industry from being locked into what each group perceived to be the ‘wrong’ standards. The 1883 standard potentially solved many of the agency issues that firms faced in market transactions and very likely helped the industry to survive in the face of intense global competition.
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- Globalization and Voluntary Consensus Standardization in the British Wire Industry, 1880
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
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