October 31, 2004

In praise of the "deviant strain"

Robert Bork and others characterize any use of our antitrust laws other than the promotion of efficiency as a "deviant strain." Aside from the fact that this "deviant" view of the goals of antitrust were important for the authors of the Sherman Act, the idea that our antitrust laws should be used to support small competitors and prevent the formation of overly powerful concentrations of private capital is a good idea. From this month's issue of Orion, here's Wendell Berry:

As the poor deserve as much justice from our courts as the rich, so the small farmer and the small merchant deserve the same economic justice, the same freedom in the market, as big farmers and chain stores. They should not suffer ruin merely because their rich competitors can afford (for a while) to undersell them.

Furthermore, to permit the smaller enterprises always to be ruined by false advantages, either at home or in the global economy, is ultimately to destroy local, regional, and even national capabilities of producing vital supplies such as food and textiles. It is impossible to understand, let alone justify, a government's willingness to allow the human sources of necessary goods to be destroyed by the "freedom" of this corporate anarchy. It is equally impossible to understand how a government can permit, and even subsidize, the destruction of the land and the land's productivity. Somehow we have lost or discarded any controlling sense of the interdependence of the Earth and the human capacity to use it well. The governmental obligation to protect these economic resources, inseparably human and natural, is the same as the obligation to protect us from hunger or from foreign invaders. In result, there is no difference between a domestic threat to the sources of our life and a foreign one.

Posted by Carey at October 31, 2004 10:25 PM