Thursday, April 21, 2022

Selling Antitrust

Selling Antitrust

Herbert Hovenkamp

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; University College London

Abstract

Antitrust enforcers and its other defenders have never done a good job of selling their field to the public. That is not entirely their fault. Antitrust is inherently technical, and a less engaging discipline to most people than, say, civil rights or criminal law. The more serious problem is that when the general press does talk about antitrust policy it naturally gravitates toward the fringes, both the far right and the far left. Extreme rhetoric makes for better press than the day-to-day operations of a technical enterprise. The extremes are often stated in overdramatized black-and-white terms that avoid the real world subtleties that make science more fact-dependent but also more useful.

Both extreme positions generally favor lower output as a solution to antitrust problems. The result is higher prices and also fewer jobs. The right shrugs at higher prices because of its faith that there are offsetting efficiencies in production. The left simply accepts that higher prices benefit smaller competitors, its preferred protected class. On employment, the extreme right does not really care, because suppressing labor power was part of a bigger neoliberal agenda. The negative impact on jobs remains a major blind spot for the left, however, which claims to support worker rights but ends up advocating policies that do much more harm than good.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/antitrustprof_blog/2022/04/selling-antitrust.html

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