The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror. Yet these laws were created and, to this day, are upheld by the “conservatives,” as a grim monument to their lack of political philosophy, of economic knowledge and of any concern with principles. Under the Antitrust laws, a man becomes a criminal from the moment he goes into business, no matter what he does. For instance, if he charges prices which some bureaucrats judge as too high, he can be prosecuted for monopoly or for a successful “intent to monopolize”; if he charges prices lower than those of his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”; and if he charges the same prices as his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “collusion” or “conspiracy.” There is only one difference in the legal treatment accorded to a criminal or to a businessman: the criminal’s rights are protected much more securely and objectively than the businessman’s.
The alleged purpose of the Antitrust laws was to protect competition; that purpose was based on the socialistic fallacy that a free, unregulated market will inevitably lead to the establishment of coercive monopolies. But, in fact, no coercive monopoly has ever been or ever can be established by means of free trade on a free market. Every coercive monopoly was created by government intervention into the economy: by special privileges, such as franchises or subsidies, which closed the entry of competitors into a given field, by legislative action. (For a full demonstration of this fact, I refer you to the works of the best economists.) The Antitrust laws were the classic example of a moral inversion prevalent in the history of capitalism: an example of the victims, the businessmen, taking the blame for the evils caused by the government, and the government using its own guilt as a justification for acquiring wider powers, on the pretext of “correcting” the evils.
“Free competition enforced by law” is a grotesque contradiction in terms.
[There is only one] meaning and purpose these laws could have, whether their authors intended it or not: the penalizing of ability for being ability, the penalizing of success for being success, and the sacrifice of productive genius to the demands of envious mediocrity.