Bigness and Farce

The key point Brandeis missed, says McCraw, was that while in all fields tighter forms of combination were attempted, their potential success ultimately depended on the technological and managerial limitations and possibilities uniquely inherent in each particular industry. In some industries, large, tight combinations had tremendous potential; in others, they were bound to fail under the pressure of competition. Appalled by “bigness” and witnessing the failures among the trusts, Brandeis “too simply” inferred that bigness was inefficient as a general matter and failed to undertake a deeper, empirical investigation of the specific conditions
and developments in various particular industries. Positing a single
“bigness”-based explanatory model for problems throughout the economy as a whole led Brandeis into serious policy misjudgments because it “doomed to superficiality both his diagnosis and his prescription.”

James May, Antitrust Practice and Procedure In the Formative Era: The Constitutional and Conceptual Reach of State Antitrust Law, 1880-1918, 135 U. Pa. L. Rev. 495, 559 (1987).