New book demonstrates the perils of antitrust enforcement and its threat to free markets.

October 4, 2007

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What is “antitrust” today?  Attorney and author Edwin S. Rockefeller abundantly illustrates in his new book from the Cato Institute, The Antitrust Religion: How Blind Faith in Antitrust Has Led to Confusing and Arbitrary Enforcement, that antitrust has become an irrational, unreasonable, and massively frustrating mixture of economics, law, politics, beliefs, suspicions, presumptions, and unfounded suppositions.  It is not law or science but a “religion” portraying itself as a fair-minded and rational act of law enforcement.

Drawing on his 50 years of experience with U.S. antitrust statutes and enforcement, Rockefeller details how the main use of antitrust law today is to provide those in positions of power – the “true believers” – with wide discretion to interfere with commercial activities and contracting freedom. It is not the protection of innocent victims from mighty and unscrupulous giants. It is political decision-making posing as law; mythical numerology falsely calling itself economics, and a misguided belief that antitrust enforcement can serve as a means of achieving social justice.

As a result of this religious zeal, its practitioners conveniently look past the fact that antitrust laws misrepresent what competition and monopolies are.  Often times they end up shielding companies from the impact of other firms’ lower prices and innovative work, hence denying such advantages to consumers. Despite little evidence of antitrust enforcement providing any real benefits, it continues to undermine the rights of individuals to enter into voluntary agreements.

Rockefeller demonstrates how the absence of coherent rules on which to base antitrust decisions provides judges, juries, and government officials with the power to use antitrust doctrines to rationalize arbitrary decisions about monopolies, mergers, and other business actions. Further, he shows how attempts at reform are futile, so long as blind faith in antitrust remains.

But, shows Rockefeller, as much as the antitrust community is pulsing onward, there is clear evidence of its decay, of facts starting to replace myths. Education and unvarnished insights are starting to lead the way, and Rockefeller’s contribution with this exceptionally clear and energetically reasoned book is an enormous leap forward in that effort.

The Antitrust Religion will greatly assist business professionals, journalists, policymakers, professors, lawyers, judges, and all others interested in government regulation of business understand how antitrust laws can be rationally and objectively applied – and clearly grasp if and when they are even appropriate to consider.  Further, the book offers guidance to business
executives about how to see clearly through the fog and confusion generated by lawyers,
government enforcement officials, and the zealous “antitrust community.”