Joint Submission of Antitrust Economists, Legal Scholars, and Practitioners to the House Judiciary Committee on the State of Antitrust Law and Implications for Protecting Competition in Digital Markets
17 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2020 Last revised: 9 Jun 2021
Date Written: May 18, 2020
The modern antitrust debate has become characterized by sustained attacks on the integrity of antitrust institutions and by unsubstantiated dismissals of debate. This atmosphere has led to a variety of proposals for radical change to the antitrust laws and their enforcement that we believe are unsupported by the evidence, counterproductive to promoting competition and consumer welfare, and offered with an unwarranted degree of certainty. Many of these current proposals would (1) undermine the rule of law; (2) undo the healthy evolution of antitrust law in the courts over time; (3) require antitrust agencies to micromanage the economy by picking winners and losers; (4) abandon a focus on consumer welfare in favor of vague and politically-oriented goals; and (5) undermine successful American businesses and their competitiveness in the global economy at the worst-imaginable time.
The assertions about the state of antitrust law and policy that purportedly justify these radical changes are not supported by the evidence. A more accurate reading of the evidence supports the following view of the American economy and the role of antitrust law: (1) the American economy—including the digital sector—is competitive, innovative, and serves consumers well; (2) structural changes in the economy have resulted from increased competition; (3) lax antitrust enforcement has not allowed systemic increases in market power; (4) existing antitrust law is adequate for protecting competition in the modern economy; (5) history teaches that discarding the modern approach to antitrust would harm consumers; and (6) common sense reforms should be pursued to improve antitrust enforcement.
We believe open discussion of existing evidence is necessary to advance contemporary debates about the performance of antitrust institutions in the digital economy. We discuss in this letter various dimensions of antitrust law, economics, and institutions that have been the targets of radical reform proposals. The signatories to this letter hold a steadfast belief that antitrust institutions, including the courts, are up to the task of protecting competition, and that the federal antitrust laws as written are effective in accomplishing that goal. While many signatories have offered diverse proposals to improve the functioning of those institutions—a few of which we share in this letter—we hold the common view that the proposed radical reforms would make consumers worse off now and in the future by chilling efficient behavior and stymieing innovation.
Keywords: antitrust, antitrust law, antitrust agencies, antitrust enforcement, consumer welfare, market power
JEL Classification: K2, K21, K23, K29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation