This article – which can be found here – discusses the goals of antitrust under US law.

The paper is structured as follows: (i) it reviews the classic goals of US antitrust (past and present); (ii) it provides an overview of the recent political prominence of antitrust in US political debate, and how this has been leaking into academic discussions on antitrust; (iii) it conducts a short overview of the variety of goals of antitrust as found in multiple jurisdictions across the globe; (iv) it identifies a number of possible goals to be adopted by US antitrust in addition to consumer welfare, including fighting economic concentration, promoting jobs, protecting SMEs, and advancing the national interest; (v) it identifies how these goals may be taken into account within an antitrust framework, particularly in the context of long-term consumer welfare. In the alternative, it discusses how such goals may be implemented through political interventions that override antitrust rules.

The paper does not contain an extremely deep analysis, but it speaks to the political moment and adds to what is starting to seem like a substantial amount of academic commentary on the topic.

An interesting insight I took from this (and one so obvious that I still feel slightly ashamed of not having thought of it before) is that antitrust goals present in the US before the Chicago-School revolution in the 70’s/80’s have not disappeared: they have just been allocated to other institutional bodies with the power to pursue them. In other words, the current focus of antitrust on welfare effects arose from an intellectual revolution that had institutional effects (i.e. competition agencies started to only take consumer welfare into account, while other goals were either ignored or attributed to other entities).

An interesting outcome of this institutional development was the entrenchment of the normative change proposed by Chicago through the adoption of certain institutional practices and the creation of certain professional habits (i.e. since courts and agencies started only to look at consumer welfare, consumer welfare became the only standard relevant for competition. While other “public interest” criteria remained in place, they were no longer being seen as belonging to antitrust – and it became less and less kosher for lawyers, economists, courts and agencies to take such “public interest” criteria into account). In a way, the author seems to be saying, his heretical view of antitrust is not only fighting against the now orthodox intellectual tradition of antitrust, but against a set of institutional mechanisms and practices that refuse to even acknowledge that such a view deserves a hearing.

In summary, this is short, sharp and ultimately interesting analysis of a much discussed topic.

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