Antitrust in a Time of Populism

33 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2017

See all articles by Carl Shapiro

Carl Shapiro

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: October 24, 2017


This article discusses how to move antitrust enforcement forward in a constructive manner during a time of widespread and growing concern over the political and economic power of large corporations in the United States. Three themes are emphasized. First, a body of economic evidence supports more vigorous merger enforcement in the United States. This can and should be done in a manner consistent with sound economic principles. Tighter merger control can be achieved by utilizing the existing legal presumption against highly concentrating mergers and by reinvigorating the potential competition doctrine to block mergers between firms that may well become important direct rivals in the foreseeable future. Second, close antitrust scrutiny is appropriate for today’s largest and most powerful firms, including those in the tech sector. However, the coherence and integrity of antitrust require that successful firms not be attacked simply because they obtain dominant positions. Proper antitrust enforcement regarding unilateral conduct by dominant firms should continue to focus on identifying specific conduct that harms customers or disrupts the competitive process, especially conduct that excludes pesky, disruptive rivals. Third, while antitrust enforcement has a vital role to play in keeping markets competitive, antitrust law and antitrust institutions are ill suited to directly address concerns associated with the political power of large corporations or other public policy goals such as income inequality or job creation. Campaign finance reform, tax policy, labor, education, and other policies are far better suited to address those critical public policy goals.

Suggested Citation

Shapiro, Carl, Antitrust in a Time of Populism (October 24, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Carl Shapiro (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-5905 (Phone)


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