Antitrust Policy and Interest-Group Politics

By William F. Shughart II | Go to book overview

9
Reform in the Realm of Interest-Group Politics

Early in 1986, word began to leak out that the Reagan administration was developing a proposal to modify the language of the Clayton Act, one of the three legislative pillars of U.S. antitrust policy. Accounts published in February of that year suggested that the plan contained several major provisions. 1 One was to change the litmus test of Section 7, which declares mergers to be unlawful where the effect "may be to substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly." The new standard would have called for challenging mergers having a "significant probability" of an anticompetitive effect. Other provisions would have required the antitrust agencies to analyze proposed mergers within the framework of the Department of Justice's Merger Guidelines, exempted import-injured industries from the antimerger law for a period of five years, placed restrictions on treble-damage awards in private antitrust suits, and relaxed somewhat Section 8's prohibitions against interlocking directorates. Reports appearing at the time touted the plan as a significant departure from the "big-is-bad" philosophy that has guided antitrust law enforcement policy throughout much of its history. Supporters hailed the proposal as an important step toward the objective of bringing the antitrust laws up to date, making them more compatible with the realities of the modern global marketplace in which U.S. firms must compete. The then assistant attorney general for antitrust, for example, stated that "it is not an immodest goal to try to bring the antitrust laws into the 1980s before they're over." 2

Although the administration's plan died a quiet political death, it represented the latest in a long series of proposals for reforming U.S. antitrust policy. These proposals, which range from suggestions for modest changes in the provisions of the existing laws to recommendations for repealing entirely one or more of the statutes themselves, continue to have currency because antitrust enforcement has changed remarkably little in substance over the past one hundred years. That is, while the emphasis has certainly varied over time depending on the preferences for antitrust intervention of the administration in

-177-

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Antitrust Policy and Interest-Group Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles from Quorum Books ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables xi
  • Foreword xiii
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Part I Normative and Positive Theories of Antitrust 9
  • 2: The Interest-Group Theory of Government 36
  • Part II Private Interests at Work 51
  • 3: Business Enterprise 53
  • 4 - The Antitrust Bureaucracy 100
  • 5: The Congress 104
  • 6: The Judiciary 121
  • 7: The Private Antitrust Bar 138
  • Part III The Political Economy of Antitrust 155
  • 8: Using Antitrust to Subvert Competition 157
  • 9: Reform in the Realm of Interest-Group Politics 177
  • Select Bibliography 197
  • Index 203
  • About the Author 209
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