The Abolition of Antitrust
The historic, economic and philosophic case for repeal
The choice of “Abolition” in the title of this book is a powerful inclusion—it seeks to place the repeal of antitrust on the same moral ground as the repeal of slavery during the American Civil War. Accordingly, the arguments presented in The Abolition of Antitrust are a taut integration of law, economics and morality. As such, this book will be anathema to any who see no connection between values and economics because The Abolition of Antitrust serves as both a primer and as a call to arms.
The Abolition of Antitrust includes essays by Dominick T. Armentano, Richard M. Salsman, Eric Daniels, Gary Hull, Harry Binswanger, Thomas Bowden, and John Ridpath, covering topics as diverse as the history of America’s views on monopolies (Daniels), profits as viewed by the economists (Salsman), as well as detailed arguments as to the immorality of antitrust (Binswanger and Hull) and several others as well.
One of the most fascinating essays in the book is the one by Richard Salsman. Entitled “The False Profits of Antitrust,” it recounts the two hundred year history of economists’ inability to understand the nature and source of profits. Profit, Salsman argues,
Salsman goes on to describe how the economics profession completely misunderstands profits, partly as a result of its insistence on fictional idealized models of market place operation such as the “perfect competition,” which according to Salsman, “asserts that profits and entrepreneurs are (or should be) dispensable.” Surprisingly, Salsman also criticizes the usually pro-capitalist Austrian school of economics for its inadequate views on the nature of profits:
In his essay, Salsman proceeds to defend the profits of capitalists and argues that companies which achieve consistently large profits—the typical targets of antitrust legislation—are unjustly persecuted.
It is no surprise then that Salsman’s chapter has sparked deep controversy among economists, one even going on to claim that he “[didn’t] know of any economists who consider the perfectly competitive model relevant to antitrust analysis” nor knew of any economists “in the past century at least, who would characterize entrepreneurs as ‘robber barons.’” Apparently, this commentator has never sat though an undergraduate course in economics or has ever read a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times.
In Editor Gary Hull’s essay “Antitrust is Immoral,” Hull describes the inspiring but tragic history of the DuPont Company. According to Hull, the story of DuPont’s extensive production and marketing efforts of cellophane shows business acumen at its best:
As a result of its achievements, DuPont was “persecuted and prosecuted.” Hull writes that
In his essay, Hull identifies altruism as the fundamental moral premise behind the throttling of businessmen through the antitrust laws. Altruism, Hull points out, “does not mean kindness of consideration” but instead that “others—whether society, God, or the state—have a first claim on anything you consider a value, be it your money, property, time, effort, or life.” Following the morality of altruism, antitrust’s proponents argue that the successful businessman must sacrifice for the unsuccessful—or else. Hull concludes that the abolition of antitrust requires the rejection of altruism and the adoption of rational egoism as an intellectual prerequisite.
The scope and power of antitrust legislation is mind-boggling. Antitrust prosecution and intimidation has included everything from ice cream, to software, to telecommunications, to grocery stores, pharmaceutical companies and individual small-businessmen. To ferment a resistance that one day will lead to antitrust’s repeal, it is crucial to challenge the moral, economic and legal premises of the proponents of this unjust law. The Abolition of Antitrust offers powerful intellectual ammunition for those who would choose to fight this battle for justice.
Gideon Reich blogs at Armchair Intellectual and works as a database administrator in Orange County, California.
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