Antitrust law! What in the world could Antitrust law have to do with the family? I'm sure you've been asking yourself this question, because I've been asking myself this question. Well, it turns out, there's a lot. I'm just not sure if any is actionable.
Antitrust law deals with anticompetitive behavior by one of two types of actors: a monopoly and a cartel. Section 1 of the Sherman Act deals with unreasonable restrictions on trade by agreement between 2 or more parties. Section 2 deals with unreasonable restrictions by a monopoly. The restrictions may be per se illegal, such as price fixing or bid rigging. Or, they may require analysis under the rule of reason where factors such as the specific restraint, likely anticompetitive effects, offsetting procompetitive justifications and market power are evaluated.
I'm sure you are still wondering what this has to do with the family. One of the primary considerations in Antitrust law is the market definition and it turns out that the family is an excellent market. Let me give you two examples.
Parents are an inherent monopoly within the family. Mom (and sometimes dad) makes all the rules and the kids follow the rules. The market is the ability to make rules and the unreasonable restriction is the elimination of the ability for kids to decide. Of course, this is justifiable procompetitive behavior because otherwise the kids would destroy each other and the house in the process. Right?
At the same time, kids are an inherent cartel. Clearly they have agreed to interrupt and conduct multiple simultaneous conversations with their mother any time I want to talk with her. I mean, all I have to say is "Denise", and one of the kids calls her name as well. Then another chimes in with something else to say. There's no way this is spontaneous. It must be planned. This is an excellent example of exclusionary behavior by a cartel. I mean, each of the kids is an independent competitior. I'm not aware of any two of my kids that have merged. Now, I have never attended one of their planning meetings nor have I seen their written agreement, but obviously it must exist. So, clearly, under a rule of reason analysis, the indirect evidence would be sufficient to convict. Right? I just haven't figured out what the penalty would be. It's not like a permanent injunction would be effective. Or would it?
Shaun Gregory is a 3L at the University of Richmond School of Law. Submit comments and letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.