Book Project

Image: The New York Times Archives, March 2, 1975, Page 170

“The Varieties of Antitrust: How the Fight Against Monopolies Derailed Globally”

Why have antitrust laws and policies failed in their historical mission to prevent monopolization? Antitrust (competition) laws are designed to protect market competition from ruinous concentrations of economic power in the hands of a few economic agents. Once an American idiosyncrasy, these laws can now be found all over the world. Yet, corporate monopolization has grown more acute in the last three decades and created serious consumer and worker protection, economic stability, and democratic representation problems. Departing from the previous research in economics and management that emphasized economic factors, such as technological and organizational changes, this book considers how the government decisions over antitrust laws and policies contribute to monopolization.

The main argument advanced in this book is that not only have antitrust rules failed, but in some instances, they have contributed to the global rise in monopolization. Using a historical institutionalist perspective, I argue that antitrust laws and policies vary by their placement of egalitarian, individualist, and libertarian rules over market competition. The egalitarian rules prevent the expansion of hierarchies and power disparities inside markets. The individualist rules limit the cooperation between market actors. Lastly, the libertarian rules preclude the state's distribution of benefits from replacing private enterprise. Different salience of these restrictions across time and space explains when antitrust laws work well and when they instead facilitate market concentration. For example, a strongly individualistic antitrust with weak egalitarian and libertarian restrictions can contribute to monopolization by preventing the competitive coordination between small producers, ignoring the expansion of large monopolistic firms, and failing to curtail the allocation of public benefits to monopolies. This conceptual theory also helps us understand the macro-level causes of antitrust policy differences, such as shared ideas among policy experts, economic and political interest group influences, and institutional legacies.

The book illustrates this theory empirically through chapters that cover (1) the evolution of the US antitrust policy, (2) the differences between the US and the EU competition policies, and (3) the enforcement of competition policies in developing countries. Each chapter relies on extensive archival research on legislative debates, detailed antitrust law enforcement statistics, and interviews with antitrust practitioners and regulators from around the world.