ARTICLES: US ANTITRUST LAW - NEW OBAMA ADMINISTRATION - ECONOMIC CRISIS - ENFORCEMENT - CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION - SUPPLY-CHICAGO SCHOOL DOCTRINE - NEO-CONSERVATIVE ECONOMISTS - GOVERNMENT REDRESS - BUSINESS MALPRACTICES - PREJUDICE OF CONSUMERS - INTERNATIONAL ENFORCEMENT - MAJOR CASES AGAINST MONOPOLIZATIONS - LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS - NEOCONSERVATIVE JUDGES - UPDATE ANTITRUST ENFORCEMENT - INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

Which competition policy for the Obama administration?

This paper was written at the time of the swearing-in ceremony of the 44th President of the United States. It aims at outlining the strong fluctuations of conceptions and enforcement of antitrust law since the Great Depression which started in 1929, which is compared by its magnitude to the present day economic crisis. Legalistic over enforcement of the antitrust in the 1950s and 1960s led to the conservative revolution materialized by the supply-side oriented Chicago School doctrine and the sharp critics of an economists group that ended in giving a prevalent role given to neo-conservative economists in the antitrust process under Republican administrations. The paper then gives a perspective on President Obama’s administration agenda with regard to antitrust law enforcement and the American competition policy until 2012.Candidate Obama has communicated clearly on his antitrust faith and objectives during the last presidential campaign, setting out a progressive agenda. It follows the Democrats’ tradition of antitrust law enforcement with regard to cartels, abusive vertical restraints, monopolization, attempts to monopolize and anticompetitive merger since, in America, antitrust law remains one of the few tools of government redress of business malpractices at the prejudice of consumers. Our expectations are that this administration will fulfill the President’s pledge for "Change" by deepening the international enforcement and by introducing one or two major cases against monopolizations to stress his difference with the "laissez-faire" attitude of his predecessor. However, given the institutional structure and the presence of Conservative Judges left in Federal Courts after eight years of the Bush administration, one may still expect a cautious action of the Democrat administration which will seriously select its cases. Given this institutional setting also, one can expect of the Obama administration some legislative actions to bypass neoconservative judges and update antitrust enforcement and bring it more in line with the progressive Democrat agenda, especially in some industries, such as health care, insurance and intellectual property rights.

« When it works well, capitalism is great for consumers. Firms compete to cut prices and improve the customer experience, and consumers have plenty of alternatives, so they are not vulnerable to corporate greed or incompetence. Most of the time, American business enthusiastically participate in this win-win system. Antitrust helps to keep that system in force. It addresses the temptation that some businesses will sometimes experience, to merge with key rivals instead of outperforming them, to agree not to compete too hard, or to sabotage rivals' efforts to serve consumers instead of redoubling their own.” Senator Barack Obama, American Antitrust Institute, Washington, 2007 1. Aux États-Unis, la campagne présidentielle est utilisée depuis plusieurs décennies par les candidats démocrates

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Frédérique Daudret-John, François Souty, Which competition policy for the Obama administration?, February 2009, Concurrences N° 1-2009, Art. N° 23257, pp. 74-79

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