IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Appropriate Antitrust Policy Towards Single-Firm Conduct


  • Dennis W. Carlton

    (Economic Analysis Group, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice)

  • Ken Heyer

    (Economic Analysis Group, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice)


In this article we distinguish between two types of single-firm conduct. The first, which we call "extraction," is conduct engaged in by the firm to capture surplus from what the firm has itself created independent of the conduct’s effect on rivals. The second, which we call “extension," is single firm conduct that increases the firm’s profit by weakening or eliminating the competitive constraints provided by products of rivals. We propose as a fundamental antitrust policy towards single-firm conduct the following: Conduct merely to extract surplus the firm has created independent of the conduct’s effect on rivals should be permitted. Conversely, conduct that extends the firm’s market power by impairing the competitive constraints imposed by rivals presents a legitimate cause for concern. We subscribe strongly to the view that an essential element of appropriate antitrust policy is to allow a firm to capture as much of the surplus that, by its own investment, innovation, industry or foresight, the firm has itself brought into existence. We believe that alternative approaches to single-firm conduct, including in particular ones aiming to enhance static efficiency at the possible cost of dynamic efficiency and ones seeking to maximize overall welfare through more targeted intervention on a case-by-case basis (not to mention the use of competition policy to protect competitors rather than consumers) threaten seriously to impede economic growth and welfare over time. A policy that goes further, and which permits all unilateral conduct regardless of competitive effects (perhaps on grounds that "even more profit will generate even more innovation") is considered below and rejected as overly lenient, inconsistent with widely accepted presumptions in favor of inter-firm competition, and unwise, at least under the current state of economic knowledge. But we note that this conclusion is one based on our current economic knowledge and should remain a topic of ongoing research. It requires an empirical assessment of the gains from motivating more competition ex ante versus the subsequent loss of competition ex post.

Suggested Citation

  • Dennis W. Carlton & Ken Heyer, 2008. "Appropriate Antitrust Policy Towards Single-Firm Conduct," EAG Discussions Papers 200802, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
  • Handle: RePEc:doj:eagpap:200802

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Armstrong, Mark, 2006. "Price discrimination," MPRA Paper 4693, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Dennis W. Carlton & Randal C. Picker, 2014. "Antitrust and Regulation," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Regulation and Its Reform: What Have We Learned?, pages 25-61 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dennis W. Carlton & Robert H. Gertner, 2003. "Intellectual Property, Antitrust, and Strategic Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 3, pages 29-60 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Dennis W. Carlton & Michael Waldman, 2008. "Safe Harbors for Quantity Discounts and Bundling," EAG Discussions Papers 200801, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
    5. Dennis W. Carlton & Michael Waldman, 2002. "The Strategic Use of Tying to Preserve and Create Market Power in Evolving Industries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(2), pages 194-220, Summer.
    6. Russ Pittman, 2007. "Consumer Surplus as the Appropriate Standard for Antitrust Enforcement," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 3.
    7. Coase, Ronald H, 1972. "Durability and Monopoly," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 143-149, April.
    8. Stole, Lars A., 2007. "Price Discrimination and Competition," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
    9. Dennis W. Carlton, 2001. "A General Analysis of Exclusionary Conduct and Refusal to Deal - Why Aspen and Kodak are Misguided," NBER Working Papers 8105, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:cje:issued:v:50:y:2017:i:3:p:838-870 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Brown, David P. & Olmstead, Derek, 2015. "Measuring Market Power and the Efficiency of Alberta’s Restructured Electricity Market: An Energy-Only Market Design," Working Papers 2015-14, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Competition; Single-Firm Conduct; Monopolization; Antitrust;

    JEL classification:

    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices
    • L42 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Vertical Restraints; Resale Price Maintenance; Quantity Discounts
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:doj:eagpap:200802. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Tung Vu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.