After thirty years, the debate over antitrust's ideology has quieted. Most now agree that the protection of consumer welfare should be the only goal of antitrust laws. Execution, however, is another matter. The rules of antitrust remain unfocused, insufficiently precise, and excessively complex. The problem of poorly designed rules is severe, because in the short run rules weigh much more heavily than principles. At bottom, antitrust is a defensible enterprise only if it can make the microeconomy work better, after accounting for the considerable costs of operating the system.
The Antitrust Enterprise is the first authoritative and compact exposition of antitrust law since Robert Bork's classic The Antitrust Paradox was published more than thirty years ago. It confronts not only the problems of poorly designed, overly complex, and inconsistent antitrust rules but also the current disarray of antitrust's rule of reason, offering a coherent and workable set of solutions. The result is an antitrust policy that is faithful to the consumer welfare principle but that is also more readily manageable by the federal courts and other antitrust tribunals.
Markets run on information. Buyers make decisions by relying on their knowledge of the products available, and sellers decide what to produce based on their understanding of what buyers want. But the distribution of market information has changed, as consumers increasingly turn to sources that act as intermediaries for information—companies like Yelp and Google. Antitrust Law in the New Economy considers a wide range of problems that arise around one aspect of information in the marketplace: its quality.
Sellers now have the ability and motivation to distort the truth about their products when they make data available to intermediaries. And intermediaries, in turn, have their own incentives to skew the facts they provide to buyers, both to benefit advertisers and to gain advantages over their competition. Consumer protection law is poorly suited for these problems in the information economy. Antitrust law, designed to regulate powerful firms and prevent collusion among producers, is a better choice. But the current application of antitrust law pays little attention to information quality.
Mark Patterson discusses a range of ways in which data can be manipulated for competitive advantage and exploitation of consumers (as happened in the LIBOR scandal), and he considers novel issues like “confusopoly” and sellers’ use of consumers’ personal information in direct selling. Antitrust law can and should be adapted for the information economy, Patterson argues, and he shows how courts can apply antitrust to address today’s problems.
When it was first published a quarter of a century ago, Richard Posner's exposition and defense of an economic approach to antitrust law was a jeremiad against the intellectual disarray that then characterized the field. As other perspectives on antitrust law have fallen away, Posner's book has played a major role in transforming the field of antitrust law into a body of economically rational principles largely in accord with the ideas set forth in the first edition. Today's antitrust professionals may disagree on specific practices and rules, but most litigators, prosecutors, judges, and scholars agree that the primary goal of antitrust laws should be to promote economic welfare, and that economic theory should be used to determine how well business practices conform to that goal.
In this thoroughly revised edition, Posner explains the economic approach to new generations of lawyers and students. He updates and amplifies his approach as it applies to the developments, both legal and economic, in the antitrust field since 1976. The "new economy," for example, has presented a host of difficult antitrust questions, and in an entirely new chapter, Posner explains how the economic approach can be applied to new industries such as software manufacturers, Internet service providers, and those that provide communications equipment and services.
"The antitrust laws are here to stay," Posner writes, "and the practical question is how to administer them better-more rationally, more accurately, more expeditiously, more efficiently." This fully revised classic will continue to be the standard work in the field.
A new and urgently needed guide to making the American economy more competitive at a time when tech giants have amassed vast market power.
The U.S. economy is growing less competitive. Large businesses increasingly profit by taking advantage of their customers and suppliers. These firms can also use sophisticated pricing algorithms and customer data to secure substantial and persistent advantages over smaller players. In our new Gilded Age, the likes of Google and Amazon fill the roles of Standard Oil and U.S. Steel.
Jonathan Baker shows how business practices harming competition manage to go unchecked. The law has fallen behind technology, but that is not the only problem. Inspired by Robert Bork, Richard Posner, and the “Chicago school,” the Supreme Court has, since the Reagan years, steadily eroded the protections of antitrust. The Antitrust Paradigm demonstrates that Chicago-style reforms intended to unleash competitive enterprise have instead inflated market power, harming the welfare of workers and consumers, squelching innovation, and reducing overall economic growth. Baker identifies the errors in economic arguments for staying the course and advocates for a middle path between laissez-faire and forced deconcentration: the revival of pro-competitive economic regulation, of which antitrust has long been the backbone.
Drawing on the latest in empirical and theoretical economics to defend the benefits of antitrust, Baker shows how enforcement and jurisprudence can be updated for the high-tech economy. His prescription is straightforward. The sooner courts and the antitrust enforcement agencies stop listening to the Chicago school and start paying attention to modern economics, the sooner Americans will reap the benefits of competition.
Predatory pricing has long been a contentious issue among lawmakers and economists. Legal actions are continually brought against companies. But the question remains: how likely are firms to cut prices in order to drive rivals out of business? Predatory firms risk having to keep prices below cost for such an extended period that it would become cost-prohibitive. Recently, economists have turned to game theory to examine circumstances under which predatory tactics could be profitable.
John R. Lott, Jr. provides long-awaited empirical analysis in this book. By examining firms accused of or convicted of predation over a thirty-year period of time, he shows that these firms are not organized as the game-theoretic or other models of predation would predict. In contrast, what evidence exists for predation suggests that government enterprises are more of a threat.
Lott presents crucial new data and analysis, attacking an issue of major legal and economic importance. This impressive work will be of great interest to economists, legal scholars, and antitrust policy makers.
How is it that two broadly similar systems of competition law have reached different results across a number of significant antitrust issues? While the United States and the European Union share a commitment to maintaining competition in the marketplace and employ similar concepts and legal language in making antitrust decisions, differences in social values, political institutions, and legal precedent have inhibited close convergence.
With The Atlantic Divide in Antitrust, Daniel J. Gifford and Robert T. Kudrle explore many of the main contested areas of contemporary antitrust, including mergers, price discrimination, predatory pricing, and intellectual property. After identifying how prevailing analyses differ across these areas, they then examine the policy ramifications. Several themes run throughout the book, including differences in the amount of discretion firms have in dealing with purchasers, the weight given to the welfare of various market participants, and whether competition tends to be viewed as an efficiency-generating process or as rivalry. The authors conclude with forecasts and suggestions for how greater compatibility might ultimately be attained.
The controversial 1922 Federal Baseball Supreme Court ruling held that the "business of base ball" was not subject to the Sherman Antitrust Act because it did not constitute interstate commerce. In Baseball on Trial, legal scholar Nathaniel Grow defies conventional wisdom to explain why the unanimous Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, which gave rise to Major League Baseball's exemption from antitrust law, was correct given the circumstances of the time.
Currently a billion dollar enterprise, professional baseball teams crisscross the country while the games are broadcast via radio, television, and internet coast to coast. The sheer scope of this activity would seem to embody the phrase "interstate commerce." Yet baseball is the only professional sport--indeed the sole industry--in the United States that currently benefits from a judicially constructed antitrust immunity. How could this be?
Drawing upon recently released documents from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Grow analyzes how the Supreme Court reached this seemingly peculiar result by tracing the Federal Baseball litigation from its roots in 1914 to its resolution in 1922, in the process uncovering significant new details about the proceedings. Grow observes that while interstate commerce was measured at the time by the exchange of tangible goods, baseball teams in the 1910s merely provided live entertainment to their fans, while radio was a fledgling technology that had little impact on the sport. The book ultimately concludes that, despite the frequent criticism of the opinion, the Supreme Court's decision was consistent with the conditions and legal climate of the early twentieth century.
Between 1951 and 1989, Congress held a series of hearings to investigate the antitrust aspects of professional sports leagues. Among the concerns: ownership control of players, restrictions on new franchises, territorial protection, and other cartel-like behaviors.
In The Big Leagues Go to Washington, David Surdam chronicles the key issues that arose during the hearings and the ways opposing sides used economic data and theory to define what was right, what was feasible, and what was advantageous to one party or another. As Surdam shows, the hearings affected matters as fundamental to the modern game as broadcasting rights, player drafts and unions, league mergers, and the dominance of the New York Yankees. He also charts how lawmakers from the West and South pressed for the relocation of ailing franchises to their states and the ways savvy owners dodged congressional interference when they could and adapted to it when necessary.
Why has antitrust legislation not lived up to its promise of promoting free-market competition and protecting consumers? Assessing 100 years of antitrust policy in the United States, this book shows that while the antitrust laws claim to serve the public good, they are as vulnerable to the influence of special interest groups as are agricultural, welfare, or health care policies. Presenting classic studies and new empirical research, the authors explain how antitrust caters to self-serving business interests at the expense of the consumer.
The contributors are Peter Asch, George Bittlingmayer, Donald J. Boudreaux, Malcolm B. Coate, Louis De Alessi, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, B. Epsen Eckbo, Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., Roger L. Faith, Richard S. Higgins, William E. Kovacic, Donald R. Leavens, William F. Long, Fred S. McChesney, Mike McDonald, Stephen Parker, Richard A. Posner, Paul H. Rubin, Richard Schramm, Joseph J. Seneca, William F. Shughart II, Jon Silverman, George J. Stigler, Robert D. Tollison, Charlie M. Weir, Peggy Wier, and Bruce Yandle.
For all the turmoil that roiled financial markets during the Great Recession and its aftermath, Wall Street forecasts once again turned bullish and corporate profitability soared to unprecedented heights. How does capitalism consistently generate profits despite its vulnerability to destabilizing events that can plunge the global economy into chaos? The Great Levelerelucidates the crucial but underappreciated role of the law in regulating capitalism’s rhythms of accumulation and growth.
Brett Christophers argues that capitalism requires a delicate balance between competition and monopoly. When monopolistic forces become dominant, antitrust law steps in to discourage the growth of giant corporations and restore competitiveness. When competitive forces become dominant, intellectual property law steps in to protect corporate assets and encourage investment. These two sets of laws—antitrust and intellectual property—have a pincer effect on corporate profitability, ensuring that markets become neither monopolistic, which would lead to rent-seeking and stagnation, nor overly competitive, which would drive down profits.
Christophers pursues these ideas through a close study of the historical development of American and British capitalist economies from the late nineteenth century to the present, tracing the relationship between monopoly and competition in each country and the evolution of legal mechanisms for keeping these forces in check. More than an illuminating study of the economic role of law, The Great Leveler is a bold and fresh dissection of the anatomy of modern capitalism.
As millions of Americans are aware, health care costs continue to increase rapidly. Much of this increase is due to the development of new life-sustaining drugs and procedures, but part of it is due to the increased monopoly power of physicians, insurance companies, and hospitals, as the health care sector undergoes reorganization and consolidation. There are two tools to limit the growth of monopoly power: government regulation and antitrust policy. In this timely book, Deborah Haas-Wilson argues that enforcement of the antitrust laws is the tool of choice in most cases.
The antitrust laws, when wisely enforced, permit markets to work competitively and therefore efficiently. Competitive markets foster low prices and high quality. Applying antitrust tools wisely, however, is a tricky business, and Haas-Wilson carefully explains how it can be done. Focusing on the economic concepts necessary to the enforcement of the antitrust laws in health care markets, Haas-Wilson provides a useful roadmap for guiding the future of these markets.
In 1998, the United States Department of Justice and state antitrust agencies charged that Microsoft was monopolizing the market for personal computer operating systems. More than ten years later, the case is still the defining antitrust litigation of our era. William H. Page and John E. Lopatka’s The Microsoft Case contributes to the debate over the future of antitrust policy by examining the implications of the litigation from the perspective of consumer welfare.
The authors trace the development of the case from its conceptual origins through the trial and the key decisions on both liability and remedies. They argue that, at critical points, the legal system failed consumers by overrating government’s ability to influence outcomes in a dynamic market. This ambitious book is essential reading for business, law, and economics scholars as well as anyone else interested in the ways that technology, economics, and antitrust law have interacted in the digital age.
“This book will become the gold standard for analysis of the monopolization cases against Microsoft. . . . No serious student of law or economic policy should go without reading it.”—Thomas C. Arthur, Emory University
Rethinking Patent Law
Robin Feldman Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress KF3114.F38 2012 | Dewey Decimal 346.730486
Scientific and technological innovations are forcing patent law into the spotlight and revealing its many glaring inadequacies. Take, for example, the patent case that almost shut down the BlackBerry, or the growing phenomenon of patent trolling, in which patents are acquired for the sole purpose of entrapping companies whose products relate to them. And patents on genes have everyone up in arms—and our courts confused.
Robin Feldman explains why patents are causing so much trouble. The problem lies in our assumption that patents set clear boundaries for rights to an invention. In reality, they do no such thing. The very nature of inventions makes them impossible to describe unambiguously for all time. When something is so new that we do not understand yet how it works, what it is capable of doing, or how it could be applied—as is often the case in biotechnology—description is necessarily slippery.
Instead of hoping for clear boundaries, and moaning when we don’t get them, Rethinking Patent Law urges lawmakers to focus on what the law can do well: craft rules that anticipate the bargaining that will occur as rights unfold. By steering clear of laws that distort the bargaining process, lawmakers can help courts answer difficult questions, such as whether genes, software, and business methods constitute patentable subject matter, whether patents in the life sciences should control inventions that have yet to be discovered, and how to resolve the battles between pharmaceutical companies and generics.
This new collection examines not only how athletes looked to the nation’s judicial system to solve conflicts but also how their cases trans¬formed the interpretation of laws. These essays examine a vast array of social and legal controversies including Heywood v. NBA (1971), which allowed any player to enter the draft; Flood v. Kuhn (1972), which considered baseball’s antitrust status; the Danny Gardella lower level 1948 case regarding free agency and baseball; Muhammad Ali’s celebrated stance against the U.S. draft; Renée Richards’s 1976 lawsuit against the U.S. Tennis Association and its due process ramifications; and human rights violations in international law with respect to the increased recruitment of underage Latin baseball players in the Caribbean region are a few examples of the vast array of stories included. Sport and the Law links these cases to other cases and topics, giving the reader the opportunity to see the threads weaving law and sport together in American society.
One of the most-followed antitrust cases of recent times—United States v. Apple—reveals an often-missed truth: what Americans most fear is competition itself.
In 2012 the Department of Justice accused Apple and five book publishers of conspiring to fix ebook prices. The evidence overwhelmingly showed an unadorned price-fixing conspiracy that cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet before, during, and after the trial millions of Americans sided with the defendants. Pundits on the left and right condemned the government for its decision to sue, decrying Amazon’s market share, railing against a new high-tech economy, and rallying to defend beloved authors and publishers. For many, Amazon was the one that should have been put on trial. But why? One fact went unrecognized and unreckoned with: in practice, Americans have long been ambivalent about competition.
Chris Sagers, a renowned antitrust expert, meticulously pulls apart the misunderstandings and exaggerations that industries as diverse as mom-and-pop grocers and producers of cast-iron sewer pipes have cited to justify colluding to forestall competition. In each of these cases, antitrust law, a time-honored vehicle to promote competition, is put on the defensive. Herein lies the real insight of United States v. Apple. If we desire competition as a policy, we must make peace with its sometimes rough consequences. As bruising as markets in their ordinary operation often seem, letting market forces play out has almost always benefited the consumer. United States v. Apple shows why supporting cases that protect price competition, even when doing so hurts some of us, is crucial if antitrust law is to protect and maintain markets.
“A fascinating book about how platform internet companies (Amazon, Facebook, and so on) are changing the norms of economic competition.” —Fast Company
Shoppers with a bargain-hunting impulse and internet access can find a universe of products at their fingertips. But is there a dark side to internet commerce? This thought-provoking exposé invites us to explore how sophisticated algorithms and data-crunching are changing the nature of market competition, and not always for the better. Introducing into the policy lexicon terms such as algorithmic collusion, behavioral discrimination, and super-platforms, Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice E. Stucke explore the resulting impact on competition, our democratic ideals, our wallets, and our well-being.
“We owe the authors our deep gratitude for anticipating and explaining the consequences of living in a world in which black boxes collude and leave no trails behind. They make it clear that in a world of big data and algorithmic pricing, consumers are outgunned and antitrust laws are outdated, especially in the United States.” —Science
“A convincing argument that there can be a darker side to the growth of digital commerce. The replacement of the invisible hand of competition by the digitized hand of internet commerce can give rise to anticompetitive behavior that the competition authorities are ill equipped to deal with.” —Burton G. Malkiel, Wall Street Journal
“A convincing case for the need to rethink competition law to cope with algorithmic capitalism’s potential for malfeasance.” —John Naughton, The Observer