Chicago and Its Discontents
27 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019 Last revised: 25 Feb 2020
Date Written: May 7, 2019
This symposium began with a call for papers “re-assessing the validity of the Chicago School’s assumptions about competition and considering whether a more aggressive approach to antitrust enforcement is now warranted.” That framing uncritically accepts the premises of antitrust’s new populist movement: first, that “the Chicago School” marked an abrupt break from prior academic analysis of antitrust law, and, second, that its adherents shared a common positive agenda fundamentally at odds with robust antitrust enforcement. Both of those premises are false. The Chicago School represented a logical continuation of the antitrust analysis developed over the preceding decades, and its members shared no positive doctrinal agenda. Instead, they shared a commitment only to promoting consumer interests by means of rigorous economics. Of course, that commitment influenced how the economics profession and antitrust policymakers thought, and progressive “post-Chicago” scholarship today shares the same commitment to consumer welfare and economic rigor. Post-Chicago scholarship thus has far more in common with Chicago School scholarship of the 1960s and 1970s than with today’s populist movement, which abandons any coherent framework altogether.
Keywords: Antitrust, Chicago School, Post-Chicago, Robinson-Patman, Consumer Welfare, Populism, Harvard School
JEL Classification: K20, K21, K22, L41, L42, L81, L86
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation