Working Paper No. 13-04:
What Would Predatory Pricing Law be without John McGee? A Reply to Professor Leslie

Author(s):

Joshua Wright

Date Posted: January 2013

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Abstract:

In his 2012 article, “Revisiting the Revisionist History of Standard Oil”, Christopher Leslie takes issue with John McGee’s work on predatory pricing and its influence on antitrust law and scholarship. Leslie claims McGee’s analysis was methodologically flawed, ideologically motivated, but ultimately successful in “distorting” predatory pricing law by persuading courts to adopt a standard too permissive of anticompetitive predation. Holding aside the specific methodological critique of McGee’s analysis, in this paper I demonstrate that Leslie’s claim that McGee distorted predation law fails for a number of reasons. The most fundamental reason is that Leslie does not consider the likely counterfactual antitrust world without McGee’s analysis. Specifically, Leslie does not consider the very likely alternative explanation for the decline in plaintiffs’ success in predation cases—namely, Phillip Areeda and Donald Turner’s seminal 1975 analysis. Whether debates continue within the economics literature regarding the details of McGee’s contribution to our understanding of predatory pricing theory and the Standard Oil saga, there is scant evidence supporting Leslie’s primary claim that McGee has had a distorting influence that has induced courts to adopt permissive attitudes toward anticompetitive predation. Nor is there evidence in the economics literature supporting Leslie’s ancillary claim that current law underdeters anticompetitive predation. A proper understanding of the intellectual foundations of modern predation doctrine reveals a doctrine far more stable and durable than Leslie implies.