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Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks at the Jackson-Nash Address


Washington, DC
United States

Good afternoon and thank you for coming to our fourth Jackson-Nash Address here in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice.  I’m pleased to see so many friends and colleagues from the Antitrust Division, the Federal Trade Commission, and the antitrust bar.

The purpose of the Jackson-Nash Address series is to stimulate thinking within the Division and the antitrust bar on some of the broader trends and bigger issues at stake in the economy.  We are in a tumultuous time, where many are urging us to reconsider our legal standards underlying the antitrust consensus that has developed over the past forty years.  The Jackson-Nash Address, and other events in the spirit of the Jackson-Nash Address, such as Franklin Foer’s talk here in the Great Hall on his book, World Without Mind, and Roger McNamee’s talk in our new Anne K. Bingaman Auditorium and Lecture Hall on digital platforms, give us a chance to step back from our day-to-day work and reflect on how to tackle the problems we confront in the twenty-first century.

This is our fourth Jackson-Nash Address.  Each one has featured a Nobel-prize winning economist.  In February of last year, Professor Alvin Roth gave an Address on his recent book, Who Gets What — And Why, and showed us hidden matching markets, from jobs to housing to online dating.  Last September, Professor George Akerlof discussed his book, Phishing for Phools, on the economics of manipulation and deception.  In December, we heard from Professor Roger Myerson on game theory in markets, government, and law.  Today, we are honored to hear from the most recent Nobel Prize for Economics winner, Dr. Paul Romer.

Before we get to our speakers, a few words on one of the namesakes of this series.  My admiration for Robert H. Jackson is no secret.  In addition to this Address series, today, we are dedicating the Robert H. Jackson Room here at the Department of Justice.  The Robert H. Jackson Room — Room 3125 — is immediately behind me, one floor up.  When these curtains are drawn back, there is a clear view from the Jackson Room into the Great Hall, where Jackson himself so often spoke during his tenure at the Department of Justice.

The Jackson Room will serve as a place for Antitrust Division visitors to gather before meeting with Division officials.  I’m pleased that we will have some Jackson pictures and documents from the Library of Congress in the room.  There are several lovely pictures of Justice Jackson.  Some show him at work, in his office; others show him at rest, with his family or with his horse.  There are documents of professional significance, for example his certificate of admission to the D.C. bar.

Some of my favorites, though, are those documents that surround his appointment to lead the Antitrust Division.  We have the internal Department of Justice memorandum from then-Attorney General Homer Cummings moving Jackson from the head of the Tax Division to the head of the Antitrust Division.  The same day, we have the Department press release providing some biographical details.

Immediately after his appointment was announced, he received congratulatory messages.  Then-Chairman of the FTC, Elwin Davis, wrote Jackson a letter recognizing that heading the Antitrust Division is “an exceedingly important post,” congratulating Jackson for the appointment, and expressing confidence that Jackson would “measure up to all requirements.”

Another is from Bill Donovan.  Donovan was a former head of the Antitrust Division under President Calvin Coolidge but he would become more famous during World War II as head of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA.  Both Donovan and Jackson were from western New York, and Jackson graciously replied to Donovan’s telegram that Jackson took “the job with no delusion about is magnitude or its difficulty at this time.  Not the least of the difficulties is that of succeeding other western New York lawyers who have handled the office with such distinction.”

Perhaps the most noteworthy set of documents, however, relate to a speech Jackson gave in 1937 on the question of “Should the Antitrust Laws Be Revised?”  In this speech, of which we have pages from the original manuscript, Jackson characterized the past forty years of antitrust enforcement as alternating between “being aggressively vague and passively vague.”  Jackson recognized that “[e]very antitrust problem is economic as well as legal,” and in so doing, helped lay the groundwork for an intelligible antitrust enforcement policy rooted in the latest economic thinking.

In the same speech, Jackson warned that the choice is not between antitrust enforcement or no antitrust enforcement, but rather between antitrust and government regulation.  He said that “[t]he antitrust laws represent an effort to avoid detailed government regulation of business by keeping competition in control of prices.”  I stand with Jackson, and I’m not the only one.

Shortly after giving the speech, future Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote Jackson a letter.  Acheson said that he had “just read a copy of” the speech, and wanted to “add a fervent amen.”  He praised Jackson for doing “a beautiful job, penetrating and restrained.”

Donovan.  Acheson.  These were Jackson’s contemporaries.  He was a giant among giants.

I would like to recognize our speakers and special guests.  First, we are honored to be joined today by our outgoing Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.  Rod shares my deep admiration for Robert Jackson.  Jackson’s official portrait from his time as Attorney General hangs in Rod’s conference room.  Rod frequently quotes Jackson in his speeches.  Jackson famously said that government lawyers “must at times risk ourselves and our records to defend our legal processes from discredit, and to maintain a dispassionate, disinterested, and impartial enforcement of the law.”  As Deputy Attorney General, Rod exemplified those qualities.  Rod, thank you for honoring us with your presence, and thank you for your public service of almost 30 years to the Department.

Second, we are also honored to be joined today by Chairman Jay Clayton, of the Securities and Exchange Commission.  We at the Department of Justice like to claim Jackson as our own, but before Jackson came to the Department he served as Special Counsel to the SEC shortly after the SEC was created.  While at the SEC, Jackson worked with New Deal luminaries, such as SEC Chairman James Landis.  I just found out that the current Chairman, Jay, shares my affection for Robert Jackson.  Chairman Clayton, thank you for joining us today.

We are also pleased to have Professor John Q. Barrett back with us.  The foremost Jackson scholar, Professor Barrett last joined us at the September Jackson-Nash Address where he sketched an excellent portrait of Jackson’s tenure as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division.  We are pleased to have Professor Barrett say a few words to help dedicate the Robert H. Jackson Room.

Next, Antitrust Division economist and manager Ron Drennan will introduce Dr. Paul Romer.  Ron Drennan is chief of our Economic Policy Section and is acting Director of Economics.   Ron has served at the Antitrust Division faithfully for over 20 years.  We are grateful for his leadership and sage advice.  Ron will introduce Dr. Romer. 

Today’s Jackson-Nash Address features Dr. Paul Romer, who won the 2018 Nobel Prize, the most recent one awarded, in Economic Sciences.  Dr. Romer received the award, in the words of the prize committee, “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis.”  Dr. Romer is no stranger to the Antitrust Division.  Many years earlier, he submitted a declaration for the Antitrust Division in the Microsoft case. Given the debate we are having about the proper role of antitrust, and the power the antitrust laws have to encourage or to harm innovation, there is perhaps no one more qualified to address us today.

Let me invite our Deputy Attorney General to the lectern.

Updated May 14, 2019