Will the FTC’s Success Continue?


The FTC has enjoyed great success for decades, and I address four topics here in this paper presented at the opening session of the FTC’s “Hearing on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.” First, what durable success means for an agency like the FTC. Then, the vision I shared with my friend and predecessor as FTC Chairman, Robert Pitofsky, reflected in the second ABA Kirkpatrick Commission, that has helped lead to the agency’s success. Next, I consider recent challenges to that vision, in both competition and consumer protection, from two “p’s,” paternalism in consumer protection and populism in antitrust. Both of these “isms” once dominated FTC work, particularly in the 1970s, with disastrous consequences for consumers and the FTC. Finally, I debunk the shibboleth that an economic cult based in the University of Chicago somehow dominates FTC thinking, particularly in antitrust.