Competition: Sacred Cow, Workhorse, or Lame Duck?

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This article is less about competition policy than it is about competition itself. Most critics of competition policy, including the late Robert Bork, stigmatize the policy for not achieving its goals, while competition itself gets off scot-free. In their estimation, competition remains the sacred cow that always delivers consumer welfare and economic efficiency. I go a step further. For my part, when markets fall short of efficiency, the most likely cause is not that competition policy fails, but that competition itself does not work. In such markets, a better policy would be of little help. The bad news is that, in the vast majority of real-world markets, competition is a lame duck, for the simple reason that economies of scale are pervasive there. And where competition is a workhorse, as it is in innovative markets, competition policy has little to contribute, and traditional competition analysis is of no use due to the unpredictability and shock-wise nature of innovation. In my view, where competition policy has the rudder of competition analysis, the ship does not move, and where the ship moves, the policy is rudderless.

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Cite as

Adriaan ten Kate, Sr., Competition: Sacred Cow, Workhorse, or Lame Duck?, 1 Criterion J. on Innovation 729 (2016).