The role of the Supreme Court in antitrust enforcement.
Access changed 3/18/13.
For more than one hundred years, American antitrust laws have helped to define the legal framework supporting the continuously expanding and developing American economy. This legal framework has not remained unchanged; rather, the antitrust laws have been revised and re-interpreted at fairly regular intervals, leading to periodic changes in the scope and conduct of antitrust enforcement. Interest in and support for the antitrust enterprise may be seen to rise and fall in rough correlation with changes in the political and economic cycles. Prominent accounts of the development of American antitrust enforcement have tended to emphasize the importance of Congress, the President, the agencies, and, most recently, economic theorists, in helping to shape and re-define antitrust policy. My dissertation contributes to this literature by focusing on the institutional role played by the Supreme Court in balancing the contentions of the political branches, the enforcement agencies, and the advocates of various schools of economic thought, while also working internally to develop those rules of statutory construction and interpretation and those trial procedures best suited to the peculiar nature of antitrust proceedings. I examine several distinct approaches on the Court to antitrust enforcement—the common law, the rule of reason, monopolistic competition, workable competition, and per se regimentation—before turning to the development of the Chicago School of antitrust analysis, first examining its origins in the law and economics seminars of Aaron Director, then following its expansion through the scholarship of Director's students and colleagues, and finally tracing some of the most important instances of the Supreme Court's confrontation with Chicago School doctrine. Following a brief look to the future of antitrust law, I conclude with some reflections on both the enduring relevance of the rule of reason in the Court's antitrust jurisprudence and the Court's unique institutional strengths as a systemic regulator of the American economy.