This post discusses the invisible hand; not the one of Adam Smith, but the one protecting top officials’ personal interests through institutional flaws. I am here calling for three types of reforms to ensure that antitrust agencies work for the greatest number.
First, regarding decision-making mechanisms, I propose that decisions aiming to open proceedings and to resolve disputes be the subject of a unanimous vote by the board of antitrust authorities. Imposing unanimous voting will partially prevent them from being captured by personal interests. Antitrust authorities have the task of protecting trade while acting with certainty and taking the FTC as an example, a decision voted by three Commissioners and rejected by two others does not achieve this objective.
Second, on the monitoring of antitrust authorities, it looks necessary to secure their budget funding for a longer period than just one year so they don’t have to bargain every twelve months. Also, monitoring could come from external parties not chosen by antitrust authorities themselves, analyzing their operation by the way of a cost-error analysis. These external advisors may also be involved in the decision-making process.
Third, several measures concerning the personnel of antitrust authorities may also participate in preventing the romantics from taking over antitrust law. I propose five measures in this respect, among which to impose Commissioners to be experts in the field of antitrust law rather than politicians. I further propose to prohibit them from extending their term beyond a single one or to stand for election during a period of five years following the end of their functions.
These various measures will in no way prevent competent personnel from occupying key positions given the high level of training and awareness related to these issues in the United States and Europe. Oh, of course, I have no illusion about antitrust agencies being in favor of them, they’d probably say that they need more (power) to protect democracies and to tame evil companies… The game of musical chairs following the European elections is very telling… top officials have all prepared that for a long time… These reforms will prevent these types of strategies and, at the same, will reinforce the legitimacy of antitrust agencies.
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