The question of the optimal trade-off between quality and price has become increasingly important as well as complex in recent times, as the advances of modern technology permit a far more refined range of choices. These subtleties among choices allow an individual, a group, or a society to titrate more precisely degrees of quality with almost any product or service, coupled, of course, with counterbalancing price consequences.
In 2002, as Program Chair of the Antitrust Section of the Association of American Law Schools, I organized a panel entitled “Guilds at the Millennium: Antitrust and the Professions” and served as one of its commentators.
The focus of this comment is not on the typical antitrust questions regarding regulating professionals in the face of asymmetric information or, in particular, how to cope with the potential anticompetitive effects of allowing the professions to regulate themselves. That issue is explicated quite cogently and extensively by the other commentator on this panel. Rather, the purpose here is to draw attention to another problem submerged within and yet intertwined with these discussions — the determination of the socially optimal trade-off between quality and price in the context of professional regulation. Co-extensively, this comment raises the question as to what antitrust's role should be in making such important price-quality trade-off decisions.