Taming Sherman’s Wilderness

Posted by Social Science Research Network

Taming Sherman’s Wilderness

By Derrian Smith (Indiana University Maurer School of Law)

There is little doubt that Congress intended economic regulation under the Sherman Act to develop with flexibility—case-by-case, claim-by-claim. Yet, given the unusual level of interpretation the Act requires, the effort to supply the content of its sweeping prohibitions more closely resembles policy formulation than statutory interpretation. The vagueness of the Sherman Act’s text needs a remedy that a century’s worth of judicial gloss has failed to provide. The modernization of our economy demands a modernized antitrust regime, and reliance on the customary techniques of judicial reasoning may now make less sense. The judiciary is certainly apt to reason by way of analogy and precedent, but the regulatory task increasingly demands enlightened, data-driven analysis. The combination of widespread declines in competition, disagreements over fundamental antitrust philosophies, and fresh swells of public and political fervor demand that Congress do what it did in 1890: respond by updating antitrust’s policy making approach. An additional step toward taming the the economic wilds—toward optimizing clarity, predictability, and outcomes—might be to shift the task of interpreting the Sherman Act to an antitrust agency. Yet, even while an agency solution may be viable, there are some drawbacks. Namely, there are constitutional objections to

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