Economics and Politics: Perspectives on the Goals and Future of Antitrust

By Jonathan B. Baker
April 1, 2013

This Article examines the roles of economics and politics in U.S. antitrust from several perspectives. It explains why the modern debate over the economic welfare standard that enforcers and courts should pursue is unsatisfying. It connects economics with politics by describing antitrust’s economic goals as the product of a mid-twentieth century political understanding about the nature of economic regulation that continues to be accepted. To protect that understanding, it explains, antitrust rules should now be implemented using a qualified consumer welfare standard. It identifies contemporary political tensions that threaten to create regulatory gridlock or even to undermine that political understanding and uses that framework to sketch several possible futures for competition policy. Notwithstanding these political tensions, the Article concludes, economics plays an indispensable role in shaping and applying modern antitrust.