Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency

By Richard Himelfarb; Rosanna Perotti | Go to book overview
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4
Antitrust in Transition:
The Bush Years

Theodore P. Kovaleff

No administration’s policies are born full fledged, as Athena from the head of Zeus. Where the successor government has its roots in the previous one, there is likely to be even less of a change of course. Nevertheless, in the field of antitrust enforcement the Bush administration took a more activist stance than its predecessor and, in a number of areas, laid the groundwork for the expansionary initiatives of the first Clinton term.

We will confine our attention to the actions of the Antitrust Division because its leadership more accurately reflects the outlook of the administration in power. While the president does choose the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, the commissioners’ terms are staggered, and thus it takes far longer for its policy to have the imprint of the administration.


INSTITUTIONAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL INHERITANCE

After years of government regulation and belief that it would foster economic growth and well being, by the late 1970s orthodoxy began an evolution that would see the apostles of the free-market-oriented Chicago School gain influence. The first efforts to deregulate had begun in the Carter administration under the able tutelage of Alfred Kahn, who led both the airline and trucking industries into a competitive environment. With support from both liberals, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, and conservatives, the urge to deregulation would become unstoppable during the Reagan years.

Institutionally, the makeup of the staff of the Antitrust Division had changed significantly. Until the early 1970s economists had little influence and had been

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