Thursday, October 27, 2005

Antitrust Law is Central Planning by Another Name

In a Wall Street Journal story on the recent record of antitrust enforcement in the US, it concluded that:

"These shenanigans have little economic or legal merit,
and increasingly look to be examples of antitrust lawyers
trying to justify their employment."

Read the whole story here, subscription required.

How is antitrust law cooked up? It is basically done like this: you hire a bunch of game theorists (used to be economists who know a bit of statistical analysis, now it gets more "sophisticated") and a bunch of lawyers, gather them in a room or a cubicle depending on the size of the bureau's budget and ask them what they think a particular market should operate without even knowing tiny bits of how it actually works!

Seriously, if these guys are that good, ie that they can bring genuine improvements to market operations by perfecting them, then theoretically you can gather up a bunch of these wunderkinds and set them loose in in different markets. What will you get if this is done?

Central planning will result, my friend. Yes, you hear it right, the outcome will be the same as if the whole economy is planned!

As an aside, as the WSJ report above mentioned, it is not difficult to understand why most if not all lawyers are strong advocates of antitrust law. This applies to Hong Kong as well. Increasingly there seems to be a concensus emerging in Hong Kong that we "need" a competition law, read this Policy Address by our Chief Executive Donald Tsang. And the supporters of competition law in Hong Kong are mostly....Lawyers!

Among lawyers, Legislator Ronny Tong is the most active, and here is his report on why Hong Kong "needs" a competition law. Ronny's apparent lack of knowledge on both basic economic theory and what useful functions particular business practices serve is indeed appalling. Will you let him take charge of the competition law? Dare you trust him with our economy? You tell me.

Seriously, if other countries have already adopted some sort of competition law can be a reason why Hong Kong "needs" one, you really have to start wondering how those folks get their degree!

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