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In theory, public policies toward business—the regulation of prices and conditions of entry into specific industries, and the enforcement of antitrust laws that circumscribe the conduct of firms more broadly—serve as bulwarks of a freely functioning market economy. Without such public-sector controls, profit-seeking firms, it is commonly thought, inevitably would acquire market power and exploit it by restricting output and raising price, benefiting themselves at consumers’ expense. Government agents must therefore vigilantly stand guard, intervening when necessary to limit the potential abuses of monopoly. Such intervention supposedly is guided by the goals of ensuring that prices are kept in line with costs, that scarce productive resources remain fully employed, that technological progress is rapid, and that economic growth is vigorous.

From this point of view, regulation and antitrust are thrust upon unwilling producers in order to channel and redirect their behavior away from privately rational, but socially harmful ends. Business decisions motivated solely by the quest for profit are displaced by those of public policymakers who pursue broader objectives. Assigning greater weight to the interests of society as a whole, the antitrust and regulatory authorities act quickly and appropriately to correct the failures that seem to flourish in unfettered markets, thereby redistributing wealth back to consumers and enhancing economic efficiency.

Keywords

Public Choice Market Power American Economic Review Price Discrimination Natural Monopoly 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • William F. ShughartII

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