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monopoly-gameFrom the NY Times–an interesting battle is developing between the US Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and pro-business advocates in congress and the white house.

The more aggressive antitrust policy was described in interviews with officials at the White House, the Justice Department, other agencies and Congress. It is a major policy reversal from the Bush administration, which did not prosecute cases in which some dominant companies engaged in potentially anticompetitive behavior, often because those officials maintained such behavior was not harmful to consumers.

Right. Not harmful to consumers, just their bank accounts.

In some cases, though, the new approach is being opposed by administration officials. Some fear that the crackdown is coming at a bad time, as corporate America reels from the recession. Other officials embrace the Bush administration’s view that larger companies and industry alliances can provide consumer benefits by making their businesses more efficient.

Yes, we know about economy of scale, and even J.K. Galbraith’s old arguments about surplus being needed for proper research and development of new products and production techniques. Antitrust is good for the economy because it expands the buying power of the consumer, it’s just not good for big business profits. The antitrust people know about this stuff too. And you know what? Their decisions are not subject to doubt because of their debt to big business. Where did those campaign dollars come from again?

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