Friday, October 13, 2006

A Growing Free-for-All - New York Times

A Growing Free-for-All - New York Times: "By approving the merger between AT&T and BellSouth unconditionally, the Bush administration has again abdicated responsibility for protecting consumers when huge companies combine.

Fierce competition between private companies is at the core of the nation’s economic strength. But government still has an important role to play as referee, making sure that the rough-and-tumble game of capitalism doesn’t become perversely uncompetitive through significant concentrations of market power in the hands of a few companies.

From the very start, the Bush administration’s approach to antitrust and merger policy has been much more hands-off than its predecessors’. In an era of rapid consolidation and deregulation, the Justice Department hasn’t brought a single major monopoly case under the Sherman Antitrust Act since the Clinton administration went after Microsoft for illegally defending its monopoly for the Windows operating system. The department settled that case during President Bush’s first year in office.

That set the tone for a merger policy that often appears to be little more than “anything goes.” One gets the impression at times that the referee has left the playing field."


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