NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Free Market Takes Care Of Trusts

February 23, 1998

For the past century, the federal government has been pursuing a populist attack on big, successful American businesses. But it could have saved taxpayers all that money and those crusading, trust-busting lawyers a lot of time and energy, critics say, if the it had simply waited for market developments to occur.

  • Starting in 1969, the government waged a 13-year war on International Business Machines (IBM), which it saw dominating the computer market -- finally dropping its case in 1982 as the company met serious competition from Intel and Microsoft, and had to start laying off thousands of employees.
  • An antitrust prosecution in 1967 forced Schwinn Bicycle Co. to lessen its grip on bicycle dealers -- just before foreign competition and complacency combined to put the company into bankruptcy in 1992.
  • The United Shoe Machinery Co. -- attacked as a monopoly by the government in 1918 -- won in the Supreme Court, but lost in the world market and now survives only as a part of a British company.
  • The government contended that Pan-American World Airways was so powerful that it must be denied domestic routes -- with the result that it lost ground to foreign competitors and died in 1990.

Antitrust critics say that history is full of incidents that prove that so-called monopolies are vulnerable to competition -- often within a period no longer than it takes a case to wind through the judicial process.

Source: John Steele Gordon, "Read Your History, Janet," Forbes, February 23, 1998.


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