THE POLITICAL SPORT OF PROTECTIONISM
By Attorney Jonathan Emord
June 7, 2010
The most popular sport in the District of Columbia is not football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or soccer, it is law making. As a young Washington lawyer in my early twenties I watched as some of the largest corporations in the world hired law firms filled with some of the brightest young lawyers to invent public policy justifications for the creation of anti-competitive laws.
Corporate officers and in-house counsel would meet with their lawyers to plan ways to achieve economic ends that the companies could not attain in the market. Intense competition coming from new market entrants, you say? No problem, legal measures could be devised to make market entry so costly as to prevent it all in the service of some costly regulatory scheme said to be in the “public interest.” Major corporate players in other markets trying to enter yours, you say? No problem, licensing requirements could be devised that could only be met by industry incumbents, thus locking those in other industries out of your market.
Hundreds of billable hours were spent on crafting complex regulatory schemes with elaborate public interest justifications, all to achieve economic advantages for particular market players. The regulations would variously impose significant costs affordable to market leaders but beyond the means of new market entrants or, if not beyond their means, costly enough to curb their expenditure of funds for competitive activities like advertising, research and development, and new product launches. The law became a tool for the creation of state-sponsored oligopolies and monopolies.