Chicago school economics was a marriage of the latest in economic modeling and free market ideology. In considering whether a proposed merger or business practice would harm competition, courts and regulators narrowed their analysis to ask whether it would hurt consumers by raising prices. And since Chicago theory pretty much assumed away the ability of even a dominant firm to raise prices, the answer was almost always no.
There is little debate that this cramped view of antitrust law has resulted in an economy where two-thirds of all industries are more concentrated than they were 20 years ago, according to a study by President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, and many are dominated by three or four firms. What’s now at issue is whether the outcome has benefited society.
Research by John Kwoka of Northeastern University, for example, has found that three-quarters of mergers have resulted in price increases without any offsetting benefits.