Consumers and Markets
Roundtable Discussion and Research Awards
The Governance and Technology Center at the University of Nebraska is pleased to share this Call for Interest and Proposals for an upcoming research roundtable discussion of Consumers and Markets.
This will be a one-day virtual event will be scheduled for a future date (note, the original date of March 11 has been canceled).
This roundtable is prompted by the observation that antitrust and consumer protection law largely treat consumers as passive market participants, subject to manipulation by and whims of the firms that make up the market. Louis Brandeis, one of the architects of modern consumer protection law, once described consumers as "servile, self-indulgent, indolent, ignorant." Economic models of consumer behavior—especially those reflected in contemporary law and policy—generally rely on aggregate representative consumer models or other models in which consumers have static preferences. And antitrust law focuses primarily on producer behavior, considering little more than price elasticities of demand and consumer switching behavior.
The discussion in March will bring a group of academics together to explore the role that consumers play in markets and to consider whether the above characterization is fair (either to consumers or law and policy). What agency do they have? Under what circumstances do they drive the behavior of firms, instead of merely responding to choices that firms make? Are they active participants in shaping the structure of industries and firms within those industries? What are the relative roles of marginal vs. inframarginal consumers in industries? Or does Brandeis’s characterization hold water?