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The Effective Competition Standard: A New Standard for Antitrust

 |  December 19, 2018

Posted by Social Science Research Network

The Effective Competition Standard: A New Standard for Antitrust

By Marshall Steinbaum (Roosevelt Institute) & Maurice E. Stucke (The Konkurrenz Group)

America’s failing antitrust system is, in large part, to blame for today’s market power problem. Lax antitrust law and enforcement have allowed troubling trends like corporate consolidation to remain unchallenged, further embedding our skewed economy. In highly consolidated markets, consumers have limited choice and little power to pick their price, quality, or provider for the goods and services they need; workers are met with massive employers and have little agency to shop around for competitive wages and benefits; and suppliers can’t reach the market without paying powerful intermediaries or succumbing to acquisition.

Our paper offers an alternative to the consumer welfare standard. Ambiguous and inadequate, the consumer welfare standard identifies threats to competition only by the potential consequences for consumers and ignores adverse effects on workers, suppliers, product quality, and innovation.

The effective competition standard would restore the primary aim of antitrust laws, namely to protect competition wherever in the economy it has been compromised, including throughout supply chains and in the labor market. The changes we call for — including amendments to the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act — are essential to protect competitive markets in the U.S., as well as individuals and the economy at large. To stop harmful market consolidation, the antitrust rules must be updated and strongly enforced. The paper provides a progressive blueprint for a robust 21st century antitrust regime that can begin to address today’s market power crisis.

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