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The Antitrust Religion

By Edwin S. Rockefeller
About the Book

PODCAST: Hear the author discuss his book.

Many successful American businesses have been accused of anti‐​competitive practices. Drawing on 50 years of experience with U.S. antitrust laws, attorney and author Edwin S. Rockefeller sheds light on why lawmakers, bureaucrats, academics, and journalists use arbitrary and irrational laws and enforcement mechanisms to punish capitalists rather than promote competition. The Antitrust Religion argues that everything most people know about antitrust is wrong.

The orthodox view is that antitrust was created to protect competition. But Rockefeller’s account is strikingly different. He argues that antitrust in practice has often benefited, not the public, but specific businesses that wanted to take down their competitors. In cases ranging from early antitrust targets like Standard Oil to the more recent IBM and Microsoft cases, he reveals why some companies are punished for being winners in the market.

Rockefeller vividly shows how antitrust has been transformed into a quasi‐​religious faith. He explains that this “antitrust religion” relies on economic theories that bestow a veneer of objectivity and credibility on law enforcement practices that actually rely on hunch and whim. On issues such as mergers and price fixing, Rockefeller thoroughly examines arbitrary antitrust laws that lead to ill‐​informed juries and bureaucratic abuse. He concludes that those laws also create a perverse incentive for entrepreneurs to hold down sales volume and avoid improvements in price, quality, and service. Otherwise, such entrepreneurs could become the next targets of the antitrust priests.

The Antitrust Religion will greatly assist business professionals, journalists, policymakers, professors, judges, and all others interested in government regulation of business in understanding how our antitrust laws actually work.

About the Author

Edwin S. Rockefeller served as chairman of the Section of Antitrust Law of the American Bar Association and as an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He served for four years on the staff of the Federal Trade Commission, and since 1961 he has been chairman of the Advisory Board of the Bureau of National Affairs’ Antitrust & Trade Regulation Report.

What Others Have Said

“If antitrust is a religion, Edwin Rockefeller has long been one of its high priests as chairman of the Antitrust and Trade Regulation Reporter Advisory Board, so his thoughtful and pointed observations demand the serious attention of anyone interested in competition law.”
—R. Hewitt Pate, former assistant attorney general for antitrust

“Ed Rockefeller provides a thorough and spirited critique of antitrust from the perspective of a disillusioned lawyer. This book may seem extreme because it can find little of merit in the entire sweep of antitrust, but economists cannot point to empirical evidence that refutes it. The ball is now squarely in the economists’ court.”
—Robert Crandall, Brookings Institution

“It is not surprising that antitrust law enforcement, grounded on such precise concepts as ‘unreasonable’ and ‘unfair,’ has allowed policy‐​making prosecutors and judges to careen crazily across the legal landscape for generations.”
—Daniel Oliver, former chairman, Federal Trade Commission

“It is quite significant to hear a rejection of the entire notion of antitrust from someone who is a former chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law with more than fifty years of practice in the field. Rockefeller’s book has brought together the many criticisms of antitrust in a succinct evaluation that contains a thoroughgoing critique of the faulty logic underlying the basic goals, theories, and concepts of antitrust. After reading the book, even a seasoned antitrust lawyer will have difficulty refuting Rockefeller’s arguments. This book is persuasive and a handy source of arguments for change. It deserves wide distribution to those who might be concerned with the integrity of the market, the civil liberties of businessmen, objective law, and the elimination of arbitrary government power.”
—Eugene C. Holloway, The New Individualist

“His analysis of competition law and business is an essential component of any college‐​level survey of antitrust law and business pursuits. College‐​level libraries strong in American history, business or law receive an in‐​depth case for the First Law of Government and the economic impact of antitrust actions.”
—The Midwest Book Review”