In this issue of the CPI Antitrust Chronicle, we tackle the ongoing debate surrounding the consumer welfare standard in antitrust law.
Since the rise to pre-eminence in the 1970s of the U.S. Chicago School, and the “more economic approach” to competition law enforcement in the EU in the 1990s, the consensus was, for a long time, that the overarching goal of antitrust rules should be to protect “consumer welfare.”
While its contours are hotly debated, even by its proponents, the notion of consumer welfare permeates all aspects of antitrust enforcement, ranging from anticompetitive agreements, to alleged monopolization, to merger control. More recently, however, critics of current antitrust enforcement (and in the view of some – under-enforcement) have called this consensus into question.
This has been spurred on largely by technological developments, which render the quantification of consumer welfare difficult in high tech markets, and call into question the analytical framework that competition enforcers have used over the past decades.
As in other hotly constested-debates, participants on one side or the other are known by colorful labels: “Hipsters,” “Neo-Brandeisians” or “populists,” on the one hand, are pitted against “technocrats,” or “Borkians,” on the other. This issue compiles a range of articles from across this spectrum. While this debate will no doubt rage on for some time to come, each of these articles offers a valuable contribution to the key question: “what is the purpose of antitrust enforcement?”
Lastly, please take the opportunity to visit the CPI website and listen to our selection of Chronicle articles in audio form from such esteemed authors as Maureen Ohlhausen, Herbert Hovenkamp, Richard Gilbert, Nicholas Banasevic, Randal Picker, Giorgio Monti, Alison Jones, and William Kovacic among others. This is a convenient way for our readers to keep up with our recent and past articles on the go, in the gym, or at the beach.
As always, thank you to our great panel of authors.