Defending the Indefensible: Nestles-Dreyer’s Ice Cream Merger

Previously, we reported on the Federal Trade Commission’s effort to derail a merger in the “superpremium” ice cream market. The story, it turns out, has garnered significant media attention, to the point where two senior FTC officials felt the need to publicly denounce those of us who have the gall to question the wisdom of antitrust enforcement.

On March 12, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins authored an excellent critique of the FTC’s efforts to stop the Nestles-Dreyer’s ice cream merger. Jenkins thesis cut right to the chase: this case has nothing to do with law or protecting “consumers,” but rather was an example of the FTC trying to justify its existence. With true monopolies nowhere to be found in the private sector, the FTC now resorts to inventing phantom monopolies in order to justify its annual budget (and to make the careers of upstart FTC lawyers.)

Not surprisingly, the FTC sees things differently. In a letter to the Journal, FTC general counsel William Kovacic and Bureau of Competition Director Joseph Simons denounced Jenkins–and by extension, all antitrust opponents–for failing to see the moral necessity of the FTC’s case against Nestle-Dreyer’s:

In his March 12 column (“FTC Screams for Antitrust”), Holman Jenkins Jr. reissues his perennial call for abolishing the antitrust laws. A frequent defender of the oppressed cartel classes, Mr. Jenkins rebukes the unanimous decision by the FTC–a body of three Republican and two Democratic appointees–to challenge Nestl