By Mark Pryor, New York Times
During his nomination hearing, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he would “vigorously” enforce U.S. antitrust law. As the Biden administration actively considers who will lead that enforcement effort as the head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, they should look to the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for inspiration.
Often overlooked in comparison to other aspects of his presidency, President Roosevelt’s push to revive languishing antitrust enforcement helped set the United States back on the right track, creating job and wealth opportunities for Americans at one of the lowest points in the nation’s history.
The reinvigoration of antitrust enforcement helped usher in an era of entrepreneurship and small-business growth. The United States was able to assert itself as a global economic leader, establishing a model of corporate decentralization that would be adopted by democratic nations across the world. But reinvigorating antitrust did not come without substantial opposition from business interests as well as judicial and enforcement bodies that lost their way. Indeed, Roosevelt’s plans were only as strong as the people he appointed to turn his vision of an open market economy into reality.
As Mr. Biden considers his choice to lead the department’s crucial antitrust division, he should look to Mr. Roosevelt’s choice of Robert Jackson, a lawyer in private practice, for the role as an example of what strong, progressive leadership in the agency can accomplish. Though Mr. Jackson is best known today for his tenure as attorney general and later as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, it is perhaps his role in transforming America’s antitrust laws and institutions where he made his biggest impact.