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The Neal Report and the Crisis in Antitrust

Herbert J. Hovenkamp

University of Iowa - College of Law

February 24, 2009

U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-09

The Neal Report, which was commissioned by Lyndon Johnson and published in 1967, is rightfully criticized for representing the past rather than the future of antitrust. Its authors completely embraced a theory of competition and industrial organization that had dominated American economic thinking for forty years, but was just in the process of coming to an end. The structure-conduct-performance (S-C-P) paradigm that the Neal Report embodied had in fact been one of the most elegant and most tested theories of industrial organization. The theory represented the high point of structuralism in industrial organization economics, resting on the proposition that certain market structures were highly concentrated and experienced high barriers to entry, making certain types of conduct inevitable. Under the very strong Cournot assumptions of the day oligopolists simply could not avoid setting prices above costs and continuously and excessively differentiating their products. The result was high short-run profits, excessive investment in product differentiation and advertising, reluctance to cut price in order to grow market share, and general stagnation.

The Neal Report's fate lay in the fact that the S-C-P paradigm was coming under withering attack by the late 1960s. The Report's simple and uncritical acceptance of the S-C-P paradigm as gospel inspired many young academics in the United States to align themselves with the competing Stigler Report, commission by President Johnson's successor Richard M. Nixon. The conflicts that erupted largely defined the views of some of the 1970s most important antitrust scholars - namely Richard A. Posner, Robert H. Bork, and William F. Baxter.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 10

Keywords: Antitrust, Monopoly, Sherman Act, Industrial Concentration, Legal History

JEL Classification: K00, K2, K21, L4, L41

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Date posted: March 5, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Hovenkamp, Herbert J., The Neal Report and the Crisis in Antitrust (February 24, 2009). U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-09. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1348707 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1348707

Contact Information

Herbert J. Hovenkamp (Contact Author)
University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )
407 Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-9079 (Phone)
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