Competition policy

Fernando Arteaga, Desiree Desierto, Mark Koyama, 25 October 2020

The Spanish Crown had a monopoly on the trade route between Manila and Mexico for more than 250 years. The ships that sailed this route were “the richest ships in all the oceans”, but much of the wealth sank at sea and remain undiscovered. This column uses a newly constructed dataset of all of the ships that travelled the route to show how monopoly rents that allowed widespread bribe-taking would have led to overloading and late ship departure, thereby increasing the probability of shipwreck. Not only were late and overloaded ships more likely to experience shipwrecks or to return to port, but the effect is stronger for galleons carrying more valuable, higher-rent cargo. This sheds new light on the costs of rent-seeking in European colonial empires.

Jorge Padilla, Joe Perkins, Salvatore Piccolo, 22 October 2020

Alleged market abuse by technology firms with large bases of loyal customers has become a pressing policy concern. This column argues that significant consumer harm can result from the attempts of these ‘gatekeeper platforms’ to gain revenue from their installed bases of platform users at the expense of third-party firms offering complementary services. The authors suggest possible ways forward for competition authorities currently considering new regulation of digital markets.

Tommaso Bighelli, Filippo di Mauro, Marc Melitz, Matthias Mertens, 13 October 2020

Aggregate firm concentration has increased in Europe in the last decade. Using firm-level data, this column shows that concentration is positively associated with productivity at the sector level. As a result, rising concentration should not be viewed as conclusive evidence of a weak competitive environment and need not necessarily be a cause for concern. Rather, rising concentration may be a reflection of more efficient market processes. This has important consequences for industrial and antitrust policy, which must carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of increasing concentration.

Matthew Bloomfield, Catarina Marvão, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 09 October 2020

Theory suggests that the use of relative performance evaluation in managerial compensation should be widespread, but the evidence shows that this is not the case. This column argues that the potential for executives to seek to improve their relative standing by employing costly sabotage – for example, in the form of overly aggressive product market strategies – is an important deterrent to firms' use of relative performance evaluation. Explicit collusion mitigates this possibility, thereby facilitating more efficient risk-sharing between shareholders and executives.

Cristina Caffarra, Gregory Crawford, 05 October 2020

Another week, another tech merger, but this time with huge potential implications for who owns our health data and how it is used. Cristina Caffarra and Greg Crawford tell Tim Phillips why 17 economists have written a paper describing harm that Google's acquisition of Fitbit would cause to consumers.

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