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Free the Market!: Why Only Government Can…

Free the Market!: Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive

by Gary L. Reback

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This isn’t the most engaging general-interest book on why you should care about antitrust law; that honor belongs to Kurt Eichenwald’s The Informant, which is essentially a true crime yarn focused on price-fixing in agricultural chemicals by Archer Daniels Midland. Eichenwald begins with a wonderful look at exactly why price-fixing is bad for other people, getting you to identify with the farmers hurt by anticompetitive practices. That said, Reback’s is a more comprehensive book than The Informant, focused on the high tech sector but giving an impassioned defense of the need for competition to protect consumers and spur innovation, along with an overview of current economic thinking about when markets can regulate themselves and when they are vulnerable to abuse by dominant market players to the detriment of others. Reback has defended companies against antitrust claims and also used the antitrust laws to challenge his clients’ competitors; he’s not exactly balanced, but he does end up with a pretty good story for why the government needs to do more before the market congeals around a standard. He hates patents because they promote monopoly, making nice connections between intellectual property and the overall competitive environment. His vitriol at the collapse of antitrust enforcement is engaging, and it’s really depressing when he points out that consolidation in the market has forced Americans to pay tons more for high-speed internet than citizens of other high-income countries, who by the way get faster service than we do. As with the overall financial crisis, the ultimate message is that you can regulate the market early, or you can try to fix it once it’s obviously broken, and the latter solution ends up with more government intervention overall. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 5, 2009 |
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