One of our goals in this book has been to identify the historical core of U.S. economic policy. We seek to trace the relationship between U.S. economic policy and our nation's framework of economic law. Finally, we suggest some ways in which economic law can be changed to get America back onto the track from which it seems recently to have diverged--the track of sustained economic growth.
We find the essence of public economic law in the twin regimes of antitrust and rate regulation. Antitrust law and regulation structure our markets and define critical points of contact between business decisionmaking (especially on the issue of capital allocation) and public policymaking. Of course, economic law also touches foreign commercial policy, the law of intellectual property, labor relations and, inevitably, taxation. Since the 1930s, active federal fiscal and monetary interventionism has influenced the workings of the American economy. And since the late 1960s, environmental requirements have also decisively shaped industrial patterns. In no way should our focus on antitrust and rate regulation detract from the importance of other aspects of public economic policy--or, for that matter, from the importance of non-rate regulatory regimes, particularly those of environmental, health, and safety regulation.
An adequate critique of antitrust and regulatory law, we believe, calls for a combination of historical inquiry, economic analysis, and legal exegesis. In our attempt to meet this requirement, we have abstracted somewhat from the historical record, selectively emphasizing certain themes--particularly the theme of economic growth--that have driven decisionmaking during periods of our national development. We do not, however, offer a comprehensive justification of economic growth as the touchstone of public policy. Nor have we undertaken to defend the pattern of distribution that prevails in our market-oriented