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Book Review

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This Review engages Tim Wu’s book, The Curse of Bigness, to explain the significance of the current rupture in antitrust and to situate it within a broader intellectual trajectory. Debates over the foundational purpose of antitrust are not new, and examining how this latest clash fits alongside previous contestations is essential for understanding what has yielded the current contestability and assessing the competing visions.

Part I of this Review summarizes Wu’s chief contributions in his recent work, focusing on three tenets that form the basis of the book. Part II offers an analytic breakdown of the overhaul in antitrust doctrine that is the subject of Wu’s critique, tracing the transformation of antitrust to changes in descriptive claims and normative assumptions that the Chicago School introduced. I argue that framing Chicago’s interventions this way lets us map the current antitrust debate with greater coherence. Doing so, moreover, reveals the limits of proffered correctives to the Chicago School and underscores the need for what has been called a “Neo-Brandeisian” program in law and political economy. Part III argues that a central component of the Neo-Brandeisian project should include reforming the institutional structure of antitrust law and policy. Although most critiques of present-day antitrust focus on doctrinal rules and the substantive legal framework that governs antitrust analysis, the exclusive reliance on a common law approach to antitrust is a key source and enabler of current dysfunctions. Complementing this common law structure with an administrative approach and adopting clear rules that curb judicial discretion would help democratize antitrust in the ways that Wu and other reformers champion.


Antitrust and Trade Regulation | Law


The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age by Tim Wu, New York, NY: Columbia Global Reports, 2018, pp. 154, $14.99.