Did Antitrust Really Make a Difference in Major High-Tech Cases?

by on January 10, 2011 · 2 comments

The Technology Policy Institute has released an interesting new study from Robert Crandall and Charles Jackson on “Antitrust in High-Tech Industries,” which takes a close look at the impact of antitrust law in the three most high-profile technology cases of the last half century: IBM, AT&T and Microsoft.  Crandall and Jackson conclude:

In each of our three cases, the ultimate source of major changes in the competitive landscape appears to have been innovation and new technology — technology that was apparently not unleashed by the antitrust litigation. In each case, the government did not and probably could not see how technology would develop over time. Therefore, it was difficult for the government to design remedies that would  accelerate competition when this competition developed from new technologies.

I enjoyed the paper and encourage others to read the entire thing.  It’s very much in line with what we’ve written here in the past on the antitrust and high-tech markets.  See, for example, my review of Gary Reback’s recent book on antitrust and high-tech markets.  As I noted there, the crucial, ‘conflict of visions‘ issue comes down to an appreciation for dynamic competition and technological evolution over the sort of static competition, fixed-pie mindset that so many antitrust defenders espouse.  Those of us who believe in dynamic competition see markets in a constant state of flux and expect that sub-optimal market developments or configurations are exactly the spark that incentivizes new form of market entry, innovation, technological disruption, price competition, and so on.  But the static competition crowd looks at the same situation and imagines that the only hope is to wheel in the wrecking ball of antitrust regulation since they have little faith that things might change for the better. Moreover, they ignore the profound costs associated with such regulation and litigation.  Crandall and Jackson’s paper explains why patience is the better policy.

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