Antitrust Policy and Interest-Group Politics

By William F. Shughart II | Go to book overview

Introduction

One of the most remarkable characteristics of antitrust policy is the enduring faith placed in its purposes despite persistent criticisms of its effects. Antitrust is almost universally conceived as an area of public policy in which government seeks to promote the common good. In this conventional view, the basic legislative framework of antitrust in the United States--the Sherman, Clayton, and Federal Trade Commission Acts--as well as the relevant policymakers and practitioners--the Congress, the judiciary, the antitrust bar, and the law enforcement agencies--are all conceived as existing to serve the public interest, where by "public interest" is meant the pursuit of some normative goal, such as maximizing social welfare by promoting a competitive economy. Thus, whenever antitrust fails to live up to its promise, as it does quite often by most accounts, the failures are attributed to a variety of correctable errors. The critics of antitrust policy accordingly preach reform, calling upon the enforcement agencies to do a better job, for antitrust lawyers and judges to become better acquainted with economic theory, or simply for incumbent policymakers to be replaced by individuals who are better qualified and better able to serve the public interest. 1

This conception of the purposes of antitrust policy contrasts sharply with the implications of the by now widely known interest-group theory of regulation. The interest-group theory stresses that governmental policies of all sorts are driven by private interests, and not the public interest. With its power to tax and to subsidize, to regulate prices and conditions of entry, to set standards for product quality, and to prohibit or restrict the use of certain business practices, the machinery of the state is a valuable resource that can be called upon to benefit some firms and industries selectively at the expense of others. The existence of such authority gives rise to efforts on the part of well organized interest groups to secure favorable treatment, at the hands of public policymakers, and the policymakers, in turn, have an incentive to supply these favors so long as the groups that will be harmed are less effective in withdrawing political support than the

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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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