Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations Abandon Consumer Welfare Standard

I was reading the Biden-Sanders unity task force recommendation this morning and almost fell out of my chair when I got to the part about antitrust.  Quite explicitly, it calls for the abandonment of the consumer welfare standard that has guided antitrust for a generation.  I can think of nine Justices who think differently but that is a different matter.  I also note a change in emphasis - antitrust officials are now called "regulators" rather than "enforcers".  This too is a change as to what antitrust is supposed to do as regulation is far more about ex ante restrictions and control than enforcement.  

From the recommendation:

Antitrust: Charge antitrust regulators with systematically incorporating broader criteria into their analytical considerations, including in particular the impact of corporate consolidation on the labor market, underserved communities, and racial equity.


I lament that moderation in antitrust, as in other fields and in political discourse more generally, seems to be disappearing. In 2015, antitrust's goal was shared by all except fringes on the left and right.  I became a citizen of the United States in 1994.  Other than my wedding (technically two weddings as the civil and religious ceremonies were not held on the same day) and the birth of my children, my becoming a citizen is the proudest and happiest day of my life.  In 1994, I was active in the College Democrats of America and was happy about how Bill Clinton had moved the Democratic Party to a more center left and inclusive party than what it had been.  Today the populists of the right want to dismantle trade, fear technology, and believe in government intervention except when they don't.  The the populists of the left behave the same way. Discussion and collaboration has been replaced by name calling, poorly thought through take it or leave it demands, and anger (sometimes outright hatred) on both sides.  I think that we all can do better.

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I agree with everything you said, Danny. But it's just politics. Don't take it overly seriously. Remember Trump's populist rhetoric from 4 years ago? Biden is just trying to motivate the Sanders wing of the Democratic party to vote. If president Biden appoints a DOJ AAG or an FTC Chair who believes that stuff, I'll very publicly apologize to you. Best, Bob

Posted by: Bob Lande | Jul 17, 2020 7:35:29 AM

Are the goals of antitrust like the Ten Commandments, carved in stone for eternity?:) in fact, in the EU, other considerations have been part of the goals since the very beginning (eg market integration, social/environmental issues) and even in the US, consumer welfare is paramount only since Bork’s classic, The Antitrust Paradox...

Posted by: Asimo | Jul 22, 2020 2:21:39 PM

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