The Fortieth Anniversary of the The Myths of Antitrust
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Dominick Armentano’s The Myths of Antitrust, later revised and published as Antitrust and Monopoly: Anatomy of a Policy Failure. This is a classic work published at the outset of the modern revival of Austrian economics. Indeed it was the first book to be written by a member of the generation of younger Austrians that succeeded the generation of Murray Rothbard and Israel Kirzner, and it demonstrated that Austrian economics was a living body of analysis that could be applied to current policy issues. The book was a favorite of Rothbard’s, who was bubbling over with anticipation when I joined him at a libertarian conference in Philadelphia in the early 1970s to meet and hear its young author speak for the first time.
In the book, Armentano clearly and systematically sets out the Austrian approach to the theory of monopoly and competition. Perhaps the greatest strength of the book, however, is the mountain of case evidence that Armentano marshals to demonstrate that the firms that were charged with violations in classic antitrust cases were hardly “monopolizing” or “restricting trade” by any reasonable definition of those terms. In fact, he shows that the trial records themselves provide indisputable evidence that these firms were expanding output, lowering costs and prices, and creating efficiencies, all to the benefit of consumers. Also, unlike other critics of antitrust who want to moderate or more narrowly target the enforcement of antitrust laws, Armentano makes the case that antitrust laws are completely inconsistent with free-market capitalism on both efficiency and ethical grounds.
The anniversary of the publication of Myths will be honored at the Austrian Economics Research Conference to held March 21-23 on the Mises Institute campus in Auburn, Alabama. Professor Armentano will present a lecture and there will be a round table discussion of the enduring influence of his book by contemporary Austrian scholars. In the meantime I highly recommend a wonderful video in which Professor Armentano presents the case for repealing antitrust laws.