Antitrust and Ex-Ante Sector Regulation
40 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 11, 2020
Using ex-ante regulation to replace inefficient and ineffective ex-post litigation based antitrust is a familiar refrain for those interested in regulating large technology firms. But the narrative that antitrust is either solely or predominantly based on ex-post litigation is a false narrative, as both the current antitrust laws and its institutions incorporate many of the features that reformers put forth as ex-ante regulation. As a matter of optimal regulatory design, this is not surprising, as a true ex-ante approach will incorporate both approaches.
In the U.S., the Supreme Court has expanded its implied immunity and related common law limits on the use of the antitrust laws in response to the potential costs of inconsistent and overlapping regulation. This forces an ex-ante choice between antitrust and sector specific regulation when addressing specific problems associated with regulated industries. We suggest the ex-ante choice between antitrust and sector regulation be made based on the comparative institutional advantage of each approach, and that such an approach will result in the allocation of duties to deal and price setting to sector specific regulators. Because both approaches are imperfect vehicles for controlling competition, both the initial allocation between antitrust and regulation and the choice to regulate in the first place should be undertaken with caution, and expected to involve a long, slow, and costly evolution towards a more efficient system of antitrust and regulation.
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