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Consumer Surplus vs. Welfare Standard in a Political Economy Model of Merger Control

  • Neven, Damien J
  • Röller, Lars-Hendrik

This paper considers merger control in a common agency framework where firms and their competitors can influence the antitrust agency and where transparency - while making lobbying less effective - also implies real resource costs. We examine the performance of two alternative standards that can be assigned to the antitrust agency in the presence of these regulatory failures. We find that under a welfare standard, lobbying leads to the clearance of relatively inefficient mergers that decrease welfare (i.e. there is a type II error). By contrast, under a consumer surplus standard, the agency will ban relatively efficient mergers that would increase welfare (i.e. there is a type I error). Lobbying actually reduces the extent to which this occurs, albeit at a cost in terms of real resources. We also find that a consumer surplus standard is more attractive when mergers are large, when increasing the size of a merger greatly enhances industry profits, when there is little transparency, and when co-ordination costs amongst competitors are low.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2620.

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Date of creation: Nov 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2620
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  1. Rama, Martin & Tabellim, Guido, 1998. "Lobbying by capital and labor over trade and labor market policies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(7), pages 1295-1316, July.
  2. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114, February.
  4. Besanko, David & Spulber, Daniel F, 1993. "Contested Mergers and Equilibrium Antitrust Policy," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 1-29, April.
  5. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1988. "The Politics of Government Decision-Making: A Theory of Regulatory Capture," Working papers 506, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Posner, Richard A, 1975. "The Social Costs of Monopoly and Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 807-27, August.
  7. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1986. "Common Agency," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 923-42, July.
  8. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-97, September.
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