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Daniel Kuehn on Aaron Director

Summary:
Aaron Director had an enormous impact on antitrust law, first through the activities of the Free Market Study (1946-1952) and the Antitrust Project (1953-1957), and through his subsequent work and teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. All of the blog posts on Director published in ProMarket recently emphasize his application of economic theory and logic to antitrust law. Stephen Stigler began the series with a story about Director’s thought experiment on blue Sunday laws. Sam Peltzman excerpted a discussion of Director’s Socratic method and his simple model of the tie-in problem. Matt Stoller’s post is perhaps the strongest in emphasizing Director’s deployment of “the mathematized jargon of right-wing economic models” and “pure logic.” What each of

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Daniel Kuehn on Aaron Director

Aaron Director had an enormous impact on antitrust law, first through the activities of the Free Market Study (1946-1952) and the Antitrust Project (1953-1957), and through his subsequent work and teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. All of the blog posts on Director published in ProMarket recently emphasize his application of economic theory and logic to antitrust law. Stephen Stigler began the series with a story about Director’s thought experiment on blue Sunday laws. Sam Peltzman excerpted a discussion of Director’s Socratic method and his simple model of the tie-in problem. Matt Stoller’s post is perhaps the strongest in emphasizing Director’s deployment of “the mathematized jargon of right-wing economic models” and “pure logic.”

What each of these pieces neglects, however, is the fact that empirical evidence—not just disembodied theory—was an important building block of Director’s views on monopoly. Stoller’s post further criticizes Director as someone who was “dedicated to setting free the power of concentrated capital.” This is also misleading. Although Director criticized much of mid-century antitrust law during his career, he did so out of a belief in the pervasiveness and potency of competition rather than out of support for “concentrated capital.”

This is from Daniel Kuehn, “Aaron Director and the Empirical Foundation for the Chicago Attitude on Antitrust,” published October 7, 2019 on the misnamed “Pro-Market” blog.

Daniel’s piece is quite good: it does what the second quoted paragraph above promises.

I have two criticisms. First, Daniel is way too generous in his description of Matt Stoller’s post on Director. I say why in this earlier post.

Second, later in the piece Daniel misidentifies Milton Friedman’s mentor as Arthur R. Burns. Milton’s mentor was Arthur F. Burns, who was later chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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