Do Politics Corrupt Antitrust Enforcement?

Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


Fred S. McChesney


Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 23, p. 133, 1999


This paper looks at how special interests affect competition policy.

Policy Relevance

Competition law, like other forms of regulation, is applied by regulators under pressure and influence from political forces, including lobbyists. Often it harms rather than helps consumers.

Main Points

  • The historic origins of antitrust law were political, rooted in interest group lobbying, not concern for consumer welfare.


  • Eventually, many economists accepted that antitrust law was intended to benefit the public.


  • Economists agree that most forms of economic regulation are essentially rooted in interest group lobbying. This is uncontroversial.


  • Recent reviews of antitrust cases suggests that the overall effect of the policy is to discourage business acts that help consumers, rather than harm consumers. Fewer economists favor vigorous enforcement.


  • Most likely, antitrust law remains rooted in special interest politics rather than in economic concerns.

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