A little over a month ago, Blawgletter pointed to a curious lag in antitrust law enforcement:

Blawgletter notes, with concern, that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division hasn’t brought a single new price-fixing case in 2007.  Worse, in all of 2006, the Division filed only one — against a magazine paper manufacturer — according to a review of its press releases.  What has the group done instead?  Pursued small-time bid-riggers and liars(!) and wrung its hands over whether antitrust laws inhibit monopolists too much.

Another month has passed without any new criminal price-fixing charges — indeed, without disclosure of any new investigations into possible price-fixing violations. 

Call Blawgletter cynical, but we continue to doubt that price fixers have foresworn criminality.  In the words of Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.  It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice.  But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Barry Barnett

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