Chicago, Post-Chicago, and Beyond: Time to Let Go of the 20th Century


In this paper, we clarify and defend the Chicago School of antitrust against incorrect and uninformed claims that it represents a narrow set of inefficiency impossibility theorems based on free market ideology. The Chicago School arose decades ago as a reaction to the then current antitrust policies summarized above. Chicago prevailed, both as a methodology and in changing antitrust law for the better. That triumph was based primarily on scholarship before 1980, work that focused largely on overthrowing the old order, not on the myriad details that are necessary to implement policy. Moreover, to the extent they addressed implementation issues, prominent Chicago scholars often disagreed.

We nevertheless argue for the term’s demise. The current popular understanding of the Chicago School of Antitrust as a narrow and uniform ideological approach to antitrust is inaccurate. As a result, the term Chicago, as well as the derivative terms Post- and Neo-Chicago, add little value and are frequently misused to make normatively incorrect points. We therefore add our voices to those who doubt the continuing usefulness of such labels. We hope to hasten the demise of using labels like Chicago pejoratively and as a substitute for the economic analysis that has been at the core of the Chicago School of Antitrust.