Does Antitrust Protect Consumers or Harm Individuals?

Most people react to the term “antitrust” with favor, and support the antitrust efforts of our government.  But is it possible that instead of protecting consumers, the government is actually hurting individuals with their antitrust cases? Considering the government’s track record, I think it’s fair to say that it’s at least worth looking into.

I recently read a book by Dominick T. Armentano that completely challenged my thinking on antitrust. Whereas I was always taught that the government should protect consumers from companies that became “too big”, I found that they were actually stifling individual rights, hampering industrialists and entrepreneurs and doing no good for consumers. You can read Antitrust: The Case for Repeal online in its entirety thanks to the Mises Institute, and I highly recommend that you do.

A recent story in Idaho makes an excellent case for why we should not support the government in its antitrust actions.

The US Department of Justice recently settled a case against doctors in Idaho for conspiring to “…boycott treatment of injured workers…”.  Sounds like a bunch of meanies doesn’t it?  However, if you are like me and are suspicious of most government efforts, this should sound like a bunch of baloney and prompt further investigation of the matter.

great article posted in the Christian Science Monitor makes the case that the government is essentially trying to tell these doctors how much they should charge for their services – and they are succeeding.  While the government makes the claim that these doctors are “price fixing”, what is clear is that it is the government who is setting prices and forcing physicians to go along with the prices they determine, even if it is a detriment to doctors themselves.

While many individuals believe that people have a “right” to be treated by a doctor, they often forget the right of a doctor (or any service provider) to charge what they see fit for their services, and to deny treatment if they feel they are are being forced to make a deal that will leave them worse off than they were before.  We cannot forget that the reason people trade (i.e. offer services for payment or payment for services) is because they benefit from the transaction. Who wants to work hard only to lose money? Is that why people open businesses? Or go to medical school?

If we want to continue to see aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators as well as hard working members of society, we must allow them to decide their own fee schedules in a free market environment. And if you argue that doctors have a “duty” to care for the sick, don’t forget to consider the very real possibility that we will lack many great doctors when we completely restrict their freedom and ability to operate in their best interest. In this situation, everyone loses.