[Book review] '"Competition overdose": curing markets from themselves? Ten points for discussion'

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Abstract

The new book by two prominent competition law thinkers Maurice E. Stucke (Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee) and Ariel Ezrachi (Professor of Law at the University of Oxford) 'Competition Overdose: How Free Market Mythology Transformed Us from Citizen Kings to Market Servants' (Harper Business, USA, 2020, pp. 402) has triggered a vivid discussion over the ever-fading question on the goals of competition law, economics and policy and – more broadly – on the very nature of the multifaceted phenomenon of competition. The previous blockbuster of the tandem 'Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy' (2016) has generated vocal and diverse feedback, and the authors continue their market success with publishing another thought-provoking piece. The book provokes not only thoughts. From its very title, subtitle, name of chapters, normative position, methodological argumentation and the choice of preprint reviewers, across the selection of case studies and to its very writing style, the book is designed to generate discussion. And for the right reasons. The times when competition policy was perceived as an axiomatic, mathematised, highly technical and pretty much non-controversial area of Law & Economics have gone. Over the last decade, competition has become a great theme again. Full of ideological appeals and statements, mindful of their political pedigree, competition law, economics and policy are transitioning from the mechanistic field of microeconomic modelling to the real world of geopolitical chessboards.A quick look at the composition of the book, makes clear the authors' intention to transpose their well-established and highly influential academic reasoning from the narrow world of competition theorists to the broader and more diverse audience. The key objective of the book in this respect is to convince such broader societal circles of the need to reform competition policy – or rather to revise our perception of the very essence and the very mission of economic competition as such. The book is in several senses iconoclastic. As skilful diagnosticians, the authors reveal weakness after weakness of the market-centred ethics. The main cures offered by the book – both in terms of the normative propositions as well as the politicised vocabulary and intentionally approachable argumentative apparatus – will be appealing to many. The authors aim to raise (or perhaps to refine) the ethical dimension in the otherwise morally neutral phenomenon of economic competition and its regulation, and this book's objective and mission are remarkable in themselves. It is hard to find a reasonable person disagreeing with the normative premises of the book. It is much easier to find one disagreeing with the enforceability of these intentions. In what follows I’ll try to articulate ten polemical points, written as a reflection on the book. Only a few of these points express disagreement. All are written with deep and sincere respect to both authors – the Masters of the discipline. We agree on most of the things, disagreeing rather on nuances. I believe though that some of those nuances are important.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages8
JournalLegal Studies
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • book review
  • competition
  • markets
  • free market
  • citizen kings
  • market servants

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