Antitrust and the Triumph of Economics: Institutions, Expertise, and Policy Change
Some of the chief aims of President Ronald Reagan's economic agenda were to reduce the "regulatory burden," minimize state intervention, and reinvigorate market mechanisms. Toward these ends, his administration limited antitrust enforcement to technical cases of price-fixing, invoking the doctrine of the Chicago school of economics. In Antitrust and the Triumph of Economics, Marc Eisner shows that the so-called "Reagan revolution" was but an extension of well-established trends. He examines organizational and procedural changes in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Jusice and the Federal Trade Commission that predated the 1980 election and forced the subsequent redefinition of policy.
During their early years, the Antitrust Division and the FTC gave little attention to economic analysis. In the period following World War II, however, economic analysis assumed an increasingly important role in both agencies, and economists rose in status from being members of support staff to being pivotal decision makers who, in effect, shaped the policies for which elected officials were generally assumed to be responsible.
In the 1960s and 1970s, critical shifts in prevailing economic theory within the academic community were transmitted into the agencies. This had a profound effect on how antitrust was conceptualized in the federal government. Thus, when Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, the antitrust agencies were already pursuing a conservative enforcement program.
Eisner's study challenges dominant explanations of policy change through a focus on institutional evolution. It has important implications for current debates on the state, professionalization, and the delegation of authority.
Originally published in 1991.
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The Institutions of Antitrust
Antitrust Division Case Filings and Investigations 19601969
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activities addressed agency's American Bar Association antitrust agencies antitrust community Antitrust Division antitrust enforcement Antitrust Law antitrust policy appointees assistant attorney authority budget Bureau of Competition Bureau of Economics bureaucratic caseload Chicago school Clayton Act commission's Committee concentration Congress congressional Continental TV corporate court doctrine created criteria decade Department of Justice division's economic analysis economic expertise economic merits economic staffs economists efficiency enforcement agenda evaluation factors Federal Trade Commission filed firms FTC's goals Government greater Historical Legacy Ibid impact important initiatives investigations law and economics legal and economic legal staff legislation levels limited litigation Merger Guidelines monopoly nomic Notes to Pages organizational percent Pertschuk policy change policy planning policy process political position potential price-fixing priorities problems professional promote prosecution public policy Reagan administration Reagan Revolution Regulation regulatory reorganization role Senate Sherman Act significant sion structuralist structure tion United vertical restraints violations