Until the American Antitrust Institute came on the scene in April 1998, there was no public interest organization principally dedicated to supporting a more aggressive antitrust agenda.
The AAI wanted to use the salience of the then-pending Microsoft antitrust case as a platform for building much greater support for an environment (political, economic, and theoretical) in which antitrust can play its historic role of preserving a competitive economy in an increasingly internationalized and technologically connected world. At the same time, the AAI also saw the need to be on the alert for, and defend against, efforts to reduce the role of antitrust and insulate businesses from competition.
An entire generation of advocacy by sophisticated conservative “think tanks” had moved antitrust in a non-interventionist direction. Well-funded by large corporations that often appear as antitrust defendants and able to draw on the scholarship of conservative academics, these institutions succeeded in turning one version of economic theory into an ideology that often opposes governmental and private efforts to eliminate monopolistic and anticompetitive practices. Part of their program has been very successfully to "educate" judges and opinion leaders to their perspective. The AAI seeks a more balanced, multifaceted, empirical, and dynamic conception of competition policy.
Both the need and the opportunity for rallying a pro-antitrust constituency have increased since 1998. But public resources devoted to antitrust are well below their level of 25 years ago, despite today’s larger and more complex economy. Although we applaud much of the antitrust activity of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, the Federal Trade Commission, and the States’ attorneys general in recent years, serious shortcomings persist. Enforcement budgets remain too low, staff is stretched too thin, and the agenda is too often determined by a constricted view of the antitrust mission, leading to overly lax merger and antimonopoly enforcement.
The AAI believes that new ways of thinking are needed to keep antitrust relevant in the face of increased international trade, emerging technologies, and ever-expanding knowledge about market economies and strategic behavior. A better-educated public is also essential to provide the grassroots support for a re-invigorated antitrust program.
The AAI’s balanced perspective on antitrust enforcement means that we are not knee-jerk critics of the enforcement agencies, either across the board or in a particular Administration. The record shows that the AAI has both praised the antitrust agencies for sound decision-making and pointed out the flaws in enforcement when appropriate.
Multidisciplinary and Bipartisan Perspective
The AAI is part of the bipartisan tradition that has supported antitrust for over 100 years. The AAI works with experts in the law schools, economics departments, business schools, business, consulting, the antitrust bar, government, and the public interest community, to develop positions that reflect clear-headed, informed, and progressive thinking about antitrust and competition policy. It benefits from the counsel of individual members of an Advisory Board composed of highly regarded experts representing these communities and a network of friends and supporters.
The AAI is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt Washington, D.C., corporation. Our contributors include foundations, law firms, corporations, associations, individuals, and some public entities including courts.