Italy and the Antitrust Law: an Efficient Delay?
The paper examines the reasons that induced Italian Parliament not to approve an antitrust law at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth, while in the United States, the first national antitrust provision, the Sherman Act, was adopted in 1890. Was the American decision to legally enforce competition not optimal? Or was Italians' laissez-faire policy on this issue inefficient? Or, still, were there significant enough differences in the underlying structure of the economy between the two States to justify two different, yet both efficient, paths in the adoption of the law? The results, albeit controversial, seem to support the last hypothesis. The thread of the argument is the following: The United States economy was solid, so competition enhanced social welfare by eliminating the distorsions generated by positions of market power by firms. On the other hand, Italian economy was more diverse. The most developed industries were smaller and more competitive, in the analyzed time interval, than their Northern American counterpart. The heavy industry, which lagged well behind both American and other European competitors, needed instead to operate in a non competitive market to catch up. Enforcing competition would have been useless for the former group, even harmful for the latter. As a consequence, the various lobbies whose special interests have collided with the public interest do not appear to have significantly affected the pattern of adoption of Antitrust.
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