My research is in comparative political economy and public policy with a focus on regulatory law. Empirically, my research explores the political origins of cross-country differences in state-market relations; how regulatory regimes evolved in response to globalization, European integration, and the diffusion of neoliberal ideology; and the implications of these changes for a range of economic and political outcomes, including economic growth, industrial concentration, inequality, and trust in government.
I am also broadly interested in the politics of the European Union (especially the European Commission and European Court of Justice), public opinion about European integration, and the politics of economic liberalisation in Western Europe.
1. The Political Economy of Competition Law
I am writing a book on the comparative political development of competition law. I have written several papers on the politics of competition policy. In collaborative projects, I am currently examining competition law and varieties of capitalism in Europe and the politics of EU state aid rules.
2. European Politics and Public Policy
I have published articles about the effects of the Euro-crisis on public trust in government and the role of the economy in shaping public support for European integration. I have also written working papers on policy implementation in the EU and the relationship between welfare retrenchment and public support for European populism.
3. The Politics of Regulating the Platform Economy
I am currently developing a new project that examines the politics of regulating the ‘platform economy’, or the digital marketplaces owned and operated by companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon. I have developed a new course on this subject and received a multi-year grant to examine state aid to platform companies.
Trust on Trial:
Competition and the State in the Neoliberal Era
In my current book project, Trust on Trial: Competition and the State in the Neoliberal Era, which is based on my dissertation, I examine the transformation of competition law in the United States and the European Union since the end of World War II. The first book-length comparative study of European Union and American competition policy outside the fields of law or economics, the analysis explains why American antitrust enforcement has waned since the 1970’s and the European Union’s competition system has been strengthened, even as both systems have developed a more ‘economized’ approach to competition law. Drawing from elite interviews, archival material, and empirical analyses of enforcement and judicial review, I argue that the transformation observed in both systems was prompted by the international economic crises of the 1970’s, which led courts and regulators in each system to pursue more ‘marketized’ approaches to competition policy and enforcement. However, because reformers approached economic liberalization within distinct jurisprudential regimes and federal arrangements, they pursued divergent pathways of institutional reform.
In the United States, where federal courts were guided, in part, by a competition paradigm developed by the Chicago School of Antitrust, which views market competition as self-sustaining and state antitrust intervention as usually unnecessary and economically harmful, the scope of antitrust was significantly narrowed. Policymakers have pursued a largely deregulatory approach to economic liberalization, removing federal restrictions while establishing minimal new fauthority to monitor and enforce competition in liberalised markets. Outside of cartels, the frequency of antitrust enforcement has precipitously declined since the 1970’s, and large companies have been provided significant autonomy to structure the market in their own interests as long as such actions do not demonstrably lead to higher consumer prices.
In the European Union, where the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) was influenced, in part, by a competition paradigm associated with the ‘ordoliberal’ Freiburg School in Germany, which views the exploitation of both private and public power as a threat to the competitive process, the scope of competition law was significantly expanded. With broad discretion to use competition law to address a range of problems, European regulators have pursued an approach to economic liberalization that emphasizes re-regulation. Deregulation at the national level has been accompanied with an expansion of pro-competitive regulation at the European level, including detailed liberalization directives, a widening of competition law’s scope, and a gradual intensification of its enforcement.
A final part of the book examines the economic consequences of the different pathways of neoliberal reform. With its broad mandate and administrative enforcement authority, the European Commission has used competition law to systematically promote regulatory liberalization, reform member states’ industrial policies, and limit the restrictive practices of dominant firms—in the process, creating a more integrated and competitive European economy. Even as it has adopted an “effects-based” approach, concerned with economic efficiency, the ‘ordoliberal’ competition paradigm inscribed into the law has facilitated a robust enforcement program against dominant companies, including some of the largest information technology companies. By contrast, U.S. regulators, with a narrower scope of authority, have been ill-equipped to address contemporary competition challenges, many of which involve regulated sectors and public constraints. The high evidentiary threshold established by courts under the Chicago-inspired consumer welfare standard has also made it difficult to address exclusionary practices by dominant players, including the largest platform-based companies. Consequently, antitrust enforcement has plummeted, allowing dominant firms and subnational governments to maintain significant barriers to competition in the U.S economy, contributing to increased economic concentration, lower worker wages, and increased inequality.
The Political Economy of Competition Law
In a paper recently published in Socio-Economic Review, which is drawn from the book project, I explain why anti-dominance rules are now more intensively enforced in the European Union compared to the United States, in contrast to the pattern at mid-century. Using a combination of historical analysis of legal developments and empirical analysis of the pattern of enforcement and judicial review, I show that industrial policy, business capture, and the relative power of economists cannot fully account for the divide. American and European antitrust policy is structured by distinct competition paradigms which have been institutionalized by courts through case law. In the United States, a laissez-faire jurisprudential regime has blocked or discouraged anti-monopoly enforcement. In Europe, an ordoliberal jurisprudential regime has facilitated a more intensive enforcement program. In highlighting how case law structures regulatory paradigms, the analysis shows that courts can contribute to both ideational continuity and change in economic policy.
In a second project, entitled "The Protectionist Politics of Globalized Regulatory Enforcement: Evidence from Cartel Prosecutions Involving Foreign Firms," I investigate whether globalized regulatory enforcement has been used to promote local prerogatives in integrated markets. Drawing from a new database of cartel enforcement that covers 7,000 regulatory sanctions in 33 OECD countries, I investigate whether foreign firms face stiffer sanctions than domestic firms that commit similar regulatory violations. Developing new measures that account for differences in the size and gravity of cartel activity, I find that foreign firms receive fines that are two to three times more severe than similarly situated domestic firms. I find little evidence that foreign discrimination is limited by either judicial review or independent competition agencies. The findings suggest that globalized regulatory enforcement is shaped by economic patriotism, and that economic patriotism has intensified alongside globalization.
European Politics and Public Policy
European politics at the supranational and national levels is another area of interest.
In an article published in European Union Politics, Jeff Frieden and I investigate the effects of the Euro-crisis on Europeans’ confidence in government. We find that Europeans’ trust in political institutions has dropped precipitously since the onset of the Euro-crisis, and that trust has declined the most within the countries and among workers most adversely affected. Drawing from an extensive analysis of 600,000 responses to 23 waves of the Eurobarometer, we show that economic, more than cultural or political factors, explain the acute, asymmetrical decline in citizen trust observed over the last decade. The most cited article published in European Union Politics over the last three years, the research has been used by the European Commission and Brookings Institution.
In another article for European Union Politics published in 2021, we have conducted a more in-depth analysis of the economic determinants of support for the EU regime. Examining a quarter century of Eurobarometer responses, we find that utilitarian considerations at both the national and individual levels remain important predictors of support for the EU regime even as national identity has also played an increasingly important role. Where macro-economic conditions are favorable compared to historical patterns, and where individuals have occupational positions that experienced more relative benefit from integration, citizens express more support for membership and more satisfaction with EU democracy. The findings point to the continuing relevance of economic interests in explaining public support for the European project as well as the difficulty of disentangling utilitarian and identitarian explanations.
In "Legalism without Adversarialism: Public and Private Enforcement in the European Union," [R&R from Regulation & Governance] I examine the extent to which European integration has encouraged more adversarial regulatory approaches, as predicted by a number of scholars. Examining EU legislation and the pattern of public and private enforcement in the competition and securities fields, two policy areas where adversarial litigation is seen as most likely to develop, I find that the European Union has not encouraged the private enforcement of public law. European directives and regulations promote administrative enforcement through vertically coordinated networks of independent regulatory agencies, a regulatory style closer to bureaucratic legalism. In practice, public enforcement through administrative action has grown much more rapidly than private enforcement, which remains infrequent in most European jurisdictions. The paper highlights how the diffusion of regulatory legalism in Europe has been mediated by the European Council’s veto power, the negative feedback effects of the U.S. experience with entrepreneurial litigation, and the inertia of European legal and bureaucratic traditions.
In a working paper with Jeffry Frieden, I examine whether labor market spending affects support for populist political parties opposed to European integration and globalization. Examining a panel of nearly 200 elections held in western Europe from 1990-2017 and analyzing pooled cross-sectional data from eight waves of the European Social Survey, we find evidence that populist parties are less successful where public spending on welfare is higher and has been cut less substantially from historical levels. The research suggests that, while the growing strength of populist political parties is rooted in long-term economic and cultural changes, compensatory social spending may moderate their appeal.