U.S. Antitrust law is under pressure to reinvent itself to take on ‘Big Tech.’ The consumer harm standard is in danger of being abandoned for a more European-style approach to regulation.

News

Op-eds, articles, and commentary from CEI experts on antitrust.

Consumers won’t thank the antitrust enforcers for repeating the mistakes of the past.

Jessica Melugin, National Review - February 9, 2021

It’s simple, limited rules that allow consumers to benefit from maximum freedom and innovation in even a complex industry.

Jessica Melugin, Open Market - February 4, 2021

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Republican Members of Congress:

CEI Staff, CEI.org - January 21, 2021

The new antitrust actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and several states aimed at breaking up Facebook are being hailed as important for the future of competition.

Iain Murray, Fortune - January 4, 2021

A recent Wall Street Journal article raises concerns about Amazon’s generics offerings and the online retailer’s business practices surrounding diaper sales.

Iain MurrayJessica Melugin, Open Market - December 23, 2020

Facebook was hit by two separate antitrust complaints this week. One is from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the other is from a group of attorneys general (AGs) from 46 states.

Ryan Young, Open Market - December 12, 2020

There is a lot of big government and big business collaboration in the United States.

Jessica Melugin, Open Market - October 13, 2020

This is clearly shown in the 449-page report issued this week by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, headed by Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, and its 19-page companion report from Republican Rep. Ken Buck.

Ryan Young, Open Market - October 9, 2020

The House's proposed antitrust reform disregards consumer welfare.

Jessica Melugin, National Review - October 8, 2020

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a new report today arguing that large technology companies are making invaluable contributions to our quality of life during the pandemic

Jessica Melugin, Ryan Young, Patrick Hedger, CEI Release - September 23, 2020

Today’s House report seems to ignore the central tenet of U.S. antitrust law: consumer harm. 

Jessica Melugin, Iain Murray, Wayne Crews, CEI Release - September 18, 2020

If you have middle school-aged children or older, chances are you’ve heard of Fortnite, an online multi-player game, created by Epic Games Inc., that allows users worldwide to compete in a battle to the last person.

Jessica Melugin, Bloomberg Law - September 18, 2020

Consumer harm is the standard for U.S. antitrust law and it would be hard to find much of it with Google’s ad tech. Harm is much easier to spot within the history of antitrust regulation.

Jessica Melugin, News Release - September 15, 2020

If you are looking for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., the technology policy sector may be your best bet— but not in a good way.

Jessica Melugin, CEI Report - September 10, 2020

FAQ

Questions and answers on CEI's antitrust policy position.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) launched a new video, “Antitrust Explained,” disputing recent calls by politicians and academics to use antitrust laws and regulations to break up large companies. 


The video provides a history of antitrust policy in the United States and explains the negative impact these laws and regulations can have on the market, consumers, and our economy.

Antitrust, Explained

1. What is antitrust?


Today’s body of antitrust laws is the culmination of over one hundred years of unclear objectives, contradictory interpretations, and controversial court decisions. At its most basic, antitrust is regulation restricting certain business arrangements and decisions. In the U.S., the stated aim of antitrust law is preserving competition in the marketplace to the benefit of consumers.


2. Why was antitrust created and what’s its history in the U.S.?


The earliest impulses towards federal antitrust legislation grew out of dissatisfaction with the railroads of the late nineteenth century, which were themselves government granted monopolies. When the problematic results of this government-created uneven playing field began to surface, so did political alliances calling for corrective government action. To that end, rate discrimination was outlawed with the passage of The Interstate Commerce Act passed in 1887. By 1888, antitrust planks appeared in both of the major political party’s platforms..

Politicians and pundits across the ideological spectrum often call for greater competition in the marketplace. While their favored means vary widely, the view that current antitrust law is necessary to ensure competition, and should be applied more vigorously than it has in recent history, is common across the American political landscape. As this paper demonstrates, a rethink of the existing antitrust paradigm is long overdue.

Read the full paper here.

Ten Areas Where Antitrust Policy Can Move on from the Smokestack Era.

Web Memo

How Antitrust Regulation Hinders Innovation and Competition.

Regulators should use the law proactively to break up companies that are abusing their market power and restore a competitive market. The size of a company is a good guide as to when this should be done.

Interventionist

1

Antitrust law is unnecessary. Market processes routinely undermine monopolies—and attempts to create monopolies. Laws against “unfair competition” prevent property owners from experimenting with joint ventures and other innovations that can improve consumer welfare.

Free Market

3

Consumer Welfare

Abuse of market power is rare and dominant market positions can be achieved through delivering improvements in consumer welfare. Therefore, antitrust laws should be used not to break up companies that have grown big through successful competition, but to address instances of collusion, price fixing, or other anti-competitive behavior.

2

Few economic concepts elicit such strong reactions as that of monopoly, and the policy intended to address it—antitrust regulations (called competition policy in the European Union). Yet, both supporters and opponents of antitrust regulations agree on one fundamental point—that effective competition is vital to the American economy and the welfare of its citizens. However, they differ in how the law should encourage this. There are essentially three schools of thought regarding antitrust policy:

Antitrust Skeptic's Bibliography

Selected readings on antitrust.

Books and Chapters

Articles

Testimony

Policy Reports

For more than two decades, the willingness of policy makers to rethink the presumption that economic regulation automatically benefits consumers has driven the deregulation of the transportation, telecommunications, banking, and electricity sectors. Yet antitrust regulation enjoys continued esteem in both the business and popular press. High-profile antitrust enforcement actions increasingly constitute a business hazard for aggressive, successful firms, threatening to disrupt innovation and economic growth.

Since economic regulations—including antitrust—transfer wealth, they inevitably attract political entrepreneurs seeking entry or price regulation to hobble or preempt competition. Thus, a more skeptical interpretation of antitrust activism is that antitrust benefits political "entrepreneurs" rather than consumers. Such enforcement for competitive advantage often harms consumers by increasing prices and decreasing output by undermining little-understood efficiencies. Rethinking the true impact of these practices, from "collusion" to "predatory pricing" to "discrimination," should be a goal of policy makers.

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