The Multiple Goals of Antitrust

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The paper proceeds by briefly describing the origins and transformation of the consumer welfare model, arguing that as a designated exclusive goal for antitrust, it is both confusing and incomplete. The discussion then turns to fundamental questions about what we want from our political economy generally and from antitrust more specifically, demonstrating that the answers are not well captured by the “consumer welfare” rubric. In fact, there are multiple economic, political, cultural, and historic values at work and there are significant shortcomings if we try to make any one economic value the singular lodestar. At the same time, holding that there are multiple goals also has important shortcomings. We offer an alternative way of conceptualizing the question of goals, in which the primary objective of antitrust and competition policy is to promote and protect a political economy that provides the society’s best mixture of competition and cooperation, given its culture, history, technology, and political situation at a given period of time.