The Return of “Big is Bad”
But wholesale rejection of the document — the most complete statement to date on the law and economics of Section 2 — because of disagreement with some of its positions is irresponsible and premature. And the rejection of specific conclusions from among the range of possibilities discussed in the report without any discussion of which other policy positions the DOJ would support, and why, severely undermines the intellectual efforts that the DOJ and FTC staffs put into the original report by summarily dismissing them. Instead, Varney asserts that the report “loses sight of an ultimate goal of antitrust laws — the protection of consumer welfare” — but cites no evidence. (And the report, for its part, mentions “consumer welfare” 31 times.) Meanwhile, the mere reference in Varney’s speech to the idea of returning to “tried and true” principles of Section 2 enforcement is meaningless, since no one knows what those are, and the whole point of the report was to define them. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the announcement dismisses the report and its intellectual bases simply because it was inconvenient to the agenda upon which the DOJ’s antitrust division is about to embark.