Brief review of “Competition, Monopoly, and the Role of Government” (1959) by Sylvester Petro

“[A]ntitrust policy implicitly accepts the [flawed] Marxian premise that an unregulated economy will result in the decay of competition and in the emergence of abusive monop­oly. . . . [yet] government’s job is done when it defends the right of competitive business[wo]men or workers to take over functions which are being abused by mo­nopolistic groups[,] [since] monopolistic abuses rarely survive without a basis in one form or another of special privilege granted by government.” Sylvester Petro, Competition, monopoly, and the role of government (Foundation for Economic Education 1959).

Law professor Sylvester Petro knew how to mask costs and mythologize processes by mincing words. But the above “rarely” is the key which belies Petro’s construction as a dependable principle: “monopolistic abuses rarely survive without a basis in one form or another of special privilege granted by government” means “monopolistic abuses can survive without special privilege granted by government.”

Thus, by his own admission, Petro did trust antitrust as an antidote to more than zero of the very monopolistic abuses which, through antitrust, etc., government has sought either to regulate else disburse — for the purpose of sowing competition and reaping liberty.

However, Petro still myopically and simplistically contends that “antitrust laws are [necessarily] inconsistent with the basic principles of the free society, private property, and freedom of contract; [and] they deprive persons of private property in some cases and outlaw certain contracts which would otherwise be valid.”

Such loose and lazy luxury with words flailed by Petro culminates in his feminine use of the subtitle “The pattern of violence” to sexy-up and dumb-down what should have been Petro’s fair, full, and objective exposition of the cost-benefit tradeoffs that may arise by government retiring its reliance on antitrust constructions to manage monopolies.

Moreover, Petro clearly conveys his stiff, silly faith in Libertarian Capitalism as having a rightful and natural monopoly on the realization of freedom: “[Advocates of the free society] must ever be on guard against new movements, ideas, and principles which would endanger its realiza­tion. And on the other hand, they must be sharply aware of existing impediments so that they may di­rect their energies intelligently to the removal of the causes of cur­rent imperfections.”

Thus, despite Petro’s passive acknowledgement that, even “without special privilege granted by government,” still monopolies can form and survive; nevertheless, Petro pretends, despite clear evidence of capitalism causing monopolies, that any “impediment” and “imperfection” in the Utopia of Libertarian Capitalism — these flaws are not inherent thereto, and will be magically solved via Petro’s vague, cursory mentions of theoretically noticing them: by being “fully aware” and “sharply aware” — and by “directing energies intelligently.” The goofiest religious cults set out clearer aims than those.

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