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University of Chicago Law Review

Abstract

Antitrust law has been here before. About fifty-five years ago, inflation was just beginning to creep up. Political and labor unrest characterized a national dissatisfaction with the status quo. And antitrust enforcers were pressing the law to its edges—and winning. These were just a few of the ingredients that would change U.S. politics over the next two decades. The Great Inflation, the alleged abuses of power by labor-union leaders, and overzealous (or perhaps just overly successful) antitrust enforcement all contributed to the reactionary period that ushered in the Reagan administration and the deregulation movement more broadly. Even though that probusiness movement does not owe its rise entirely to antitrust enforcers who got out over their skis, the perceived overextensions of antitrust law were swept up in the political and economic narratives of the era. Of course, past need not be prologue. But when considering how law should respond to concentrated labor markets, it would be just as unwise to disregard this history as to treat it as fate. This Essay simply offers a word of caution: tread carefully. To the extent that reformers still want to address concentrated labor markets through antitrust law (despite potential signs of reduced concentration), they should proceed mindful of reform’s fragile political support and potential backlash.

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