Antitrust Economics on Trial: A Dialogue on the New Laissez-Faire.

Author:Boyd, David W.

This book critically examines, in an innovative and lighthearted fashion, the economic justification of the Chicago style approach to antitrust. The setting is a voir dire in a United States district court, in which a purported expert witness is being questioned by an attorney in front of a judge to ascertain his/her qualifications to comment on a pending merger case. The expert, trained at the University of Chicago, also teaches there, and publishes almost exclusively in University of Chicago journals. (We also learn, over a hundred pages later, that the he/she also sports an Adam Smith necktie.)

The general form of the questioning is such that the examining attorney presents the expert with apparently incontrovertible evidence which seems to suggest that the results of the Chicago analysis are fundamentally flawed. The witness then attempts to defend his/her alma mater, frequently invoking the logic and common sense of price theory. The book begins with the witness defending the use of applied price theory to explain a number of ostensibly non-economic behavior, including marriage, crime, drug addiction, suicide, and extramarital affairs. This puts the expert on the defensive, a position he/she maintains throughout the book. The attorney goes on to question the witness on a variety of topics, including contestability, predation, and horizontal, vertical, and conglomerate merger policy.

The book is extremely well documented, with a wide variety of references reflecting the work of both the Chicago economists and their critics. The attorney's questions are usually based on the results of economic studies, journal articles, or other research findings. The responses of the expert, too, are often paraphrased from Congressional hearings, journal articles, or books (Bork [1] and the speeches and testimony of William F. Baxter are frequently the sources of the expert's replies). Ultimately, though, this reliance on documented facts and arguments unquestionably biases the book against the Chicago approach. While the questioner can and does draw from a variety of sources in forming a particularly trenchant criticism to which the expert must respond, the answer is too often culled from a general comment or statement and, as such, is scarcely a direct rejoinder to the specifics of the question. Consider the following exchange on vertical foreclosure (the included footnotes are from the original and indicate the degree and spirit of the references):

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