Antitrust scholars frequently refer to an “ideological pendulum” to describe the rise and fall of trends in the evolution of antitrust law. This pendulum arguably swings between fairness and laissez-faire visions, while a technocracy vision moderates its motion. Mapping key phases in the evolution of antitrust law, I argue that a new antitrust era with distinctive characteristics has been forming in recent years.
The present new antitrust era is a product of growing tensions and contradictions among policy prescriptions. After several decades in which antitrust was a specialized field that drew little public attention, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, antitrust became a proxy for disagreements over economic policies. Today, antitrust law exemplifies striking discrepancies among positions advanced by the Supreme Court, the established antitrust technocracy, political populism, and economics. This resurrection of public and political interest in antitrust, I argue, marks the end of one antitrust era and the beginning of another.