This is a fairly old paper  – available at https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/antitrust_law/report_policyobjectives.authcheckdam.pdf – that describes how, although most jurisdictions maintain that their competition laws “preserve competition”, the preservation of competition can mean different things in different places. It also discussing how these different meanings of competition can reflect the fact that antitrust laws can protect many different objectives. To my knowledge, this is one of the best description of the various goals of antitrust – it is comprehensive, to the point, and easy to read (for those interested, there is also a survey from the ICN on this).

Even though jurisdictions adopt competition rules for differing reasons, each tends to describe its competition law initiatives in the same manner, as rules that aim “preserve competition.” However,  “preserving competition” is defined in different ways. Among the objectives that this paper identifies as informing the application of competition rules in different countries are: consumer welfare, total welfare, economic efficiency, protection and promotion of business rivalry, the economic freedom of traders, fairness, the diffusion of economic power, the protection of small business, the promotion of business opportunity, pluralism, social cohesion, macroeconomic goals such as employment, consumer protection, industrial policy, the creation and promotion of “national champions,” export promotion, productivity growth, and even market integration.

Some systems, like contemporary U.S. antitrust law, treat “preserving competition” primarily as a way to enhance efficiency and consumer welfare. Other systems focus somewhat more on the preservation of rivalry among market actors, on preserving market opportunities as such, or on protecting small or medium-sized firms.  We all know this, but it has struck me for a while that we (and by this I mean the competition community) often talk and write as if we don’t.

I’ve said before that I think that a proper acknowledgement of this is important to improve the analytical quality of work on antitrust. The main reason for that – other than making for more honest work – is that it will us allow to acknowledge that a number of differences across jurisdictions are not about different technical assumptions, approaches or mistakes (even though these do exist) but about different goals.

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