Is there an "antitrust" religion?

Posted by: Diane Brady on September 16, 2007

Edwin Rockefeller has a new book out on Oct. 4 from the Cato Institute called The Antitrust Religion that asserts antitrust practics have become irrational, unreasonable and massively frustrating.

Rockefeller, sounding every bit the part of a disillusioned lawyer, looks back over the past 50 years and concludes that the main use of antitrust law today is to protect those in a position of power from competition. He calls it political decision-making posing as law.

And yet consumers generally still believe that antitrust regulations are what fosters competition. They see targets like Microsoft, News Corp., IBM and GE on the radar screen of regulators, and assume the public’s interest is being protected through such scrutiny.

What bothers Rockefeller isn’t the theory but the practice. He concludes that most decisions are made on hunch and whim. I certainly recall the criticism of Jack Welch and his behavior as a factor in GE’s Honeywell acquisition being nixed in Europe several years ago. It’s interesting fodder to ponder as people await an important court decision this week in Microsoft’s long-running antitrust battle in Europe.

Reader Comments


September 17, 2007 8:08 AM

That's why I like these blogs so much -- these issues make you think. Fostering competition isn't just for its own sake. It's to give consumers choices at fair prices. The fact Honeywell supplied to GE's competitors made the merger inconceivable perhaps even under US standards. I would contest Rockefeller's assessment that decisions are made on hunches and whims because that tells me he hasn't investigated deep enough to understand the analytical tools regulators use to make their decisions.

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