Antitrust Populism: Towards a Taxonomy

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Antitrust populism–or the populist use of competition policies–is currently on the rise again. This is mainly due to the challenges brought about by the digital economy to traditional competition tools. From a normative perspective, the economics of competition law should avoid embarking into the outdated populist reasoning of the early days of antitrust policy. From a positive perspective, there is a need to conceptualize such modern antitrust populism because its rampant influence requires further scrutiny. This is the main objective of the Article: it offers a taxonomy of antitrust populism, distinguishing between conceptual antitrust populism and political antitrust populism. It is argued in this Article that both facets of antitrust populism bolster and reinvigorate one another. This taxonomy of antitrust populism enables us to better understand (and subsequently tackle) the unprincipled use of antitrust laws for populist reasons. After having introduced the notion of antitrust populism (I), we shall decipher what we call political antitrust populism (II) before delving into the intellectual roots of conceptual antitrust populism (III). We shall conclude upon the implications of the taxonomy of antitrust populism henceforth proposed (IV).