Getting Antitrust and History in Tune

By Brian R. Cheffins (University of Cambridge)

Antitrust is high on the reform agenda at present, associated with calls to “break up big tech.” Proponents of reform have invoked history with regularity in making their case. They say reform is essential to reverse the baleful influence of the Chicago School of antitrust, which, in their telling, disastrously and abruptly ended in the 1980s a “golden” era of beneficially lively antitrust enforcement. In fact, antitrust enforcement was, at best, uneven, from the early 20th century through to the end of the 1970s. As for the antitrust “counter-revolution” of the late 20th century, this was fostered as much by fears of foreign competition and skepticism of government regulation as Chicago School theorizing. The pattern helped to ensure that the counter-revolution was largely sustained through the opening decades of the 21st century. This article, in addition to getting antitrust and history in tune by drawing attention to the foregoing points, provides insights regarding antitrust’s future direction.

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