Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
Your home page today offers vivid evidence of the Biden administration’s confusion on matters economic. One report, headlined “Biden Targets Big Business in Sweeping Executive Order to Spur Competition,” describes the administration’s goal as ensuring against “higher prices and fewer product choices.” Yet accompanying this report is a link to Greg Ip’s July 7th column titled “Antitrust’s New Mission: Preserving Democracy, Not Efficiency.”
It’s fair to ask the administration: Which is it? Does the administration, as the first report claims, wish to keep prices low and product choices abundant? If so, it’ll want markets to be as efficient as possible. This outcome requires that antitrust continue to be guided exclusively by the consumer-welfare standard. But if, as Mr. Ip reports, the administration is eager to abandon the consumer-welfare standard in order to turn antitrust into a tool for “preserving democracy, not efficiency,” then the administration is in fact not interested in ensuring against higher prices and fewer product choices.
The administration can’t have it both ways. It would be good of Mr. Biden to decide, and to inform us clearly, which of these two conflicting goals he’ll pursue.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
Greg Ip – with whom I often disagree – hits the nail on the head when he concludes that “For all its flaws, antitrust governed by the consumer welfare standard is less at risk of politicization than beliefs about what’s good or bad for democracy.”