Revitalizing Antitrust in Its Second Century: Essays on Legal, Economic, and Political Policy

By Harry First; Eleanor M. Fox et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Delimiting Antitrust

Oliver E. Williamson

Both the law and economics of antitrust have undergone significant change in the past twenty years. The expansive antitrust attitudes and enforcement practices of the 1960s have been delimited. Greater respect for economies and the subtleties of market processes and competition have developed. Efforts to focus antitrust policy and further delimit antitrust enforcement are in progress. Although I am sympathetic with these general purposes, I am also concerned with overshooting.

Section I of this chapter examines the changing attitudes toward antitrust and distinguishes between inflexible legal rule and more flexible legal process bases for delimiting enforcement. Section II assesses the "filters" approach to antitrust proposed by Frank Easterbrook, 1 parts of which have been embraced by the enforcement agencies and the courts. Section III sketches the scope of strategic behavior. Several recent cases in which filter and strategic behavior issues arise are discussed in Section IV.


I
The Logic of Antitrust

Antitrust is a complicated subject and is usefully informed by several points of view. In the following paragraphs I discuss and distinguish economic and legal logic and argue that antitrust is best analyzed by regarding "economizing" as the "main case" -- where, in the context of antitrust, the main case is that factor that is held to be primarily responsible for shaping and changing the organization of economic activity. I hold that economizing on production costs but, even more, on transaction costs qualifies for main case standing.

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