The Sherman Antitrust Act contains two important provisions. Section 1 outlaws contracts and conspiracies in restraint of trade and Section 2 prohibits monopolization and attempts to monopolize, a market situation where sellers have entered into collusive agreements on price and output. If the U.S. Justice Department were really serious about Sherman Antitrust provisions, it would focus its attention on Washington.

One of the more egregious examples of conspiracy and monopoly in restraint of competition are Private Express Statutes that grant the U.S. Postal Services a monopoly in the delivery of first class mail. Then there's the Navel Orange Administration that controls citrus production quotas in California and Arizona. Any grower exceeding his market quota, and thereby threatening prices, faces fines and imprisonment.

Then there's the U.S. Department of Labor that enforces collusive union practices in restraint of competition. In addition to laws like the Davis-Bacon Act and minimum wage laws, that permit unions to price their competition out of the market, labor laws permit unions to command exclusive dealing.

In fact, just about every cabinet level federal agency enforces some kind of collusive restraint on competition and at state and local levels of government, it's the same story.

I'm wondering whether monopolistic restraints on competition are only bad if you don't get Washington permission first.

I'm Walter Williams
June 2002
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