Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter

"Free the Market" by Gary L. Reback

The book's subtitle is "Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive". But it's not an academic treatise by any means. It's more of a personal history--- Gary Reback vs. The Forces of Darkness (personified, variously, by Lotus, Apple distributors, Microsoft, Oracle, AT&T, and most of all the Chicago School and its adherents.)

I don't know how well the book does as a history of modern antitrust. Not every case described had Reback's involvement, but most of them did, so I wonder what decisions of significance might have been left out. However, it's a great read and I loved hearing about these trials from somebody involved as deeply as he was. Reback's style and confident arguments do a good job of bringing the reader around to his clients' point of view. (As a lawyer, of course, that's what he gets paid for.)

The book is a fairly devastating critique of the way the Chicago School's simplified and unrealistic attitudes have neutered antitrust law. Reback has no patience for academic models that ignore the obvious practical effects of an anti-competitive practice or merger. Many of his trials featured economic researchers demonstrating, in very practical terms, the benefit of competition. In some cases this was made even easier by executive's own admission that they intended to raise prices, or in one merger review by the company's own behavior in regions where the merger had already taken place! Yet these efforts usually were dismissed based on weak theoretical arguments, or impossibly high standards.

I was, however, left with an uneasy feeling about Reback's story. Hadn't he ever been on the *wrong* side of an issue, or taken on an unsympathetic client? He'd never been on the wrong policy side of a court case?
Tags: books, economics, law, review
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