Perspectives on Antitrust of the American Institutionalist Economists

27 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2020 Last revised: 10 Jul 2020

See all articles by Matthew Panhans

Matthew Panhans

Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Economics

Reinhard Schumacher

Universit├Ąt Potsdam

Date Written: January 19, 2020


This paper investigates the views on monopoly, competition, and antitrust of the American Institutionalist economists during the first half of the 20th century. In doing so, we explore a perspective on antitrust issues that contrasts with what would later become the mainstream approach to antitrust analysis. We argue that there are three distinct dimensions to an institutionalist perspective on competition policy. First, the institutionalist approach focused on describing industry details, so as to bring theory into closer contact with life and reality. Second, institutionalists emphasized that while competition was sometimes beneficial, it could also be disruptive. Third, institutionalists had a broad view of the objectives and purposes of competition policy that extended beyond maximizing consumer welfare. This approach lead institutionalists to advocate for reforms to antitrust enforcement and a wide range of uses of other policies to enhance competition, including helping industries self-regulate, granting representation to all stakeholders within corporations, and direct regulations by the government. Their experimental attitude also meant that policy would always be evolving, and antitrust enforcement might only be one stage in the development toward a regime of industrial regulation.

Keywords: History Of Economics, Institutionalists, Antitrust, Competition Policy

JEL Classification: B15, B25, L40

Suggested Citation

Panhans, Matthew and Schumacher, Reinhard, Perspectives on Antitrust of the American Institutionalist Economists (January 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Panhans (Contact Author)

Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Economics ( email )

600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20580
United States

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