AAI letter to President-Elect Bush urges moderate antitrust direction

Dec 27 2000
Testimony and Interventions

President-Elect George W. BushTransition Office1800 G Street, NWWashington, DC 20270

Re: Antitrust Policy

Dear President-Elect Bush:

The American Antitrust Institute is an independent non-profit education, research, and advocacy organization whose Advisory Board consists of outstanding lawyers and law professors, economists, and business people dedicated to the idea that the nation's antitrust laws are fundamental to the well-being of the nation's economy. In our belief that you share this basic commitment and intend to enforce the laws in the same spirit as the former Bush Administration, we offer some brief thoughts for your consideration at this time of transition.

  1. The need for vigorous antitrust enforcement continues, driven by an unprecedented merger wave, the aftermath of deregulation of monopolistic industries, the struggle of the New Economy to emerge against the status quo, and a significant change in business strategies and regulatory systems around the world.
  2. There is a broad consensus in the society generally, among politicians, and among those familiar with the issues, that vigorous enforcement is the right policy for the U.S.
  3. Antitrust enforcement is conservative policy because it constitutes the bedrock of American competitive capitalism. As Chairman Henry Hyde of the House Judiciary Committee said last year, "Antitrust law sustains free markets and dissipates political pressure for government regulation. For that reason, Republicans, and indeed all citizens, should support it wholeheartedly... [A]ntitrust is the antithesis of government regulation... Vigorous and intelligent antitrust enforcement is a cornerstone Republican principle."
  4. A dramatic shift to libertarian principles would be a radical departure from the type of effective policies that were enforced during the Bush Administration, under the directorship of Jim Rill and Janet Steiger. Such a shift would have negative ramifications for consumers, for the vast majority of business enterprises, and for a world economy that is in the process of moving toward worldwide commitment to antitrust policies.
  5. Economic knowledge has advanced significantly in the past twenty years, incorporating ideas generated by the Chicago School, but also incorporating newer knowledge about strategic behavior and newer techniques for analyzing market power and its abuses. This body of knowledge supports limited intervention when markets fail rather than libertarian faith that markets are perfect.
  6. Much of the impact of antitrust is attributable to what counselors advise their clients in private. It is important that they carry the message that the antitrust laws will be enforced, albeit with reasonableness, in a vigorous and certain manner. You can assure that this message is given by making a few well-chosen personal remarks and by your appointment of outstanding leaders in the tradition of Rill and Steiger for the positions of Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust and Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.
  7. We urge you to select leaders who are well respected in the antitrust community and who are known to be supportive of the objectives of the antitrust mission.

We would be pleased to elaborate on any or all of the above comments.

Sincerely,

Albert A. FoerPresident