Lawyers 11, Economists 1

by on August 18, 2004

That’s the tally for commissioners on the Antitrust Modernization Commission (AMC). With a vague charter to “examine whether the need exists to modernize the antitrust laws and to identify and study related issues,” the AMC has been tasked with preparing a report for Congress and the president. The twelve commissioners are appointed by the president and Congress for purposes of political balance and the report is to be delivered within three years of the first meeting, which was last month. Deborah Garza has been appointed chair of the commission.

One potential area of interest is the impact of technology on markets and antitrust policy. Network industries and technological change may generate calls for new definitions of markets and competition, particularly in the wake of the Microsoft case and current debate over the merger between Oracle and PeopleSoft. Economists have long been wary of antitrust laws, identifying potential harmful effects that such policies can have in the marketplace. Efficient practices and mergers have been disallowed in the past on antitrust grounds, and in many instances these cases are filed by competitors who are threatened rather than consumers who are harmed. Let’s hope these lessons are not lost in the current debate over modernization.

Recently, the AMC issued a request for public comment, asking interested parties to identify areas that the commission should include in its review. Comments are due September 30.

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