Wright’s Right on Posner

Thom Lambert —  5 February 2010

A couple of days ago, Josh wrote to correct the record on Judge Posner’s antitrust views. AAG Varney had implied that Posner has changed his views on antitrust and now favors a more interventionist antitrust policy. Josh helpfully pointed us to Posner’s own remarks, which do not support Ms. Varney’s “gloss.”

Ms. Varney is not alone in misconstruing Judge Posner’s views. An article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal reported that

In September, the influential Judge Richard A. Posner, who spearheaded the movement to apply Chicago School economics to antitrust law, declared he had lost faith in the theory that had previously guided his work. His new guiding light: John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who advocated a hefty role for government in the economy.

Of course, agreeing with Keynes’ prescription for dealing with a macroeconomic recession in no way commits one to the view that more aggressive policing of vertical restraints, unilateral firm conduct, and vertical mergers — the practices toward which the Chicago School takes a relatively laissez faire stance — will enhance market performance.

In typically pithy fashion, Judge Posner makes that point in a letter to the editor in today’s WSJ:

My views on antitrust have not changed. I believe that Keynes has much to teach us about the role of government in digging an economy out of a depression or a recession. But that has absolutely nothing to do with antitrust.

(HT: Danny Sokol)

Thom Lambert

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I am a law professor at the University of Missouri Law School. I teach antitrust law, business organizations, and contracts. My scholarship focuses on regulatory theory, with a particular emphasis on antitrust.