Working Paper No. 09-23:
Overshot the Mark? A Simple Explanation of the Chicago School's Influence on Antitrust

Author(s):

Joshua Wright

Date Posted: March 2009

Availability:
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Abstract:

Using George Stigler's rules of intellectual engagement as a guide, and applying an evidence-based approach, this essay is a critical review of former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky's How the Chicago School Overshot the Mark: The Effect of Conservative Economic Analysis on U.S. Antitrust, a collection of essays devoted to challenging the Chicago School's approach to antitrust in favor of a commitment to Post-Chicago policies. Overshot the Mark is an important book and one that will be cited as intellectual support for a new and "reinvigorated" antitrust enforcement regime based on Post-Chicago economics. Its claims about the Chicago School's stranglehold on modern antitrust, despite the existence of a perceived superior economic model in the Post-Chicago literature, are provocative. The central task of this review is to evaluate the book's underlying premise that Post-Chicago economics literature provides better explanatory power than the "status quo" embodied in existing theory and evidence supporting Chicago School theory. I will conclude that the premise is mistaken.  The simplest explanation of the Chicago School's continued influence of U.S. antitrust policy -- that its models provide superior explanatory power and policy relevance -- cannot be rejected and is consistent with the available evidence.