Mark D. White
Upholding fair competition is a deeply engrained principle in the legal and political structures of most liberal democracies and is widely regarded as one of the foundations of a market economy. In this book, Mark D. White disputes this common understanding of competition and antitrust law. Drawing on concepts from economics, philosophy and law, White argues that the pre-eminent status accorded to the regulation of competition should be reconsidered by any government that claims to support property rights.
Despite its populist origins, competition and antitrust law today is usually understood in terms of economics, which provides a solid foundation for the analysis of market competition. As this logic goes, governments restrict firms from engaging in behaviour regarded as uncompetitive or leading to a monopoly, to protect consumers, other firms and competition itself. At the same time, however, this neglects the fundamental property rights on which the market economy is based, an unfortunate implication of the utilitarian ethics at the heart of economics. As a result, firms are held responsible for maximizing welfare and penalized for failures to do so, even when their actions violate no recognized rights of consumers or competitors, which goes against the presumption of freedom of commerce in liberal societies. More generally, competition or antitrust law treats firms as if they were agents of the state rather than opportunities for individuals to interact in a market that allows them to pursue their interests in an environment where the rights of all are respected. As White explains, competition or antitrust law serves as a prime example of how economics privileges welfare and efficiency over rights and justice, promoting the maximization of outcomes while ignoring the rights of those generating them.
Accessible and non-technical this book assumes no background in economics, philosophy, or law. It provides a fresh and thought-provoking perspective on competition/antitrust law that will challenge readers from all backgrounds and political stances to question the degree to which its wisdom is taken for granted.
Mark D. White is Chair and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York and a member of the economics doctoral faculty at the Graduate Center of CUNY. His recent books include The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics (editor) (2019) and Batman and Ethics (2019).