About Caron Beaton-Wells

“The defining mission of every academic should be to engage.”

I’m a Professor specialising in competition law at the University of Melbourne Law School, Director of the University’s Competition Law & Economics Network and Global Competition and Consumer Law program.

Over 15 years steeped in researching and teaching in competition law, I’ve become increasingly concerned by the exclusion or marginalisation of academic contributions in important public debates.

On average an academic journal article is “read completely by no more than ten people”.

With Competition Lore, one of my aims is to entice academics out of the ivory tower and into the public discourse to engage as broadly as possible on a set of issues that pose opportunities and challenges for us all.

Graduating from law school before competition law was recognised as a respectable academic discipline (in Australia at least), I trod the well-worn path of commercial legal practice for almost ten years before being drawn into academia as a way to open my window (and mind) to challenges beyond those presented by the next case file.

Since then I have published (rather than perished) and worked with a brilliant team at the University of Melbourne to build the world’s first wholly online synchronous masters program in competition law  –  which does not mean I am a techno-geek but does suggest that I have entrepreneurism in my DNA. Yes, it’s possible in academia!

I may not have studied economics but have had to come to grips with the economic code that underpins and shapes policy and law in my chosen field. At the same time I have always been drawn to its other dimensions, those often seen by economists as unnecessarily or even dangerously muddying the waters.

Competition policy and law are fundamentally a reflection of social and political relations, between the state, the business sector and the citizenry. Economics provides what may seem to be an objective orderly prism through which evidence-based judgments can be made about how markets should work, and to what ends. It’s hugely valuable, but it’s not the whole story.

The questions facing anyone interested in the nature and implications of competition in a digital age are a quintessential example of this. Social and political considerations have always simmered beneath and, in some contexts, loomed large in debates about competition policy and antitrust. This is particularly so in the digital era as a small cohort of companies exert outsized influence on markets and institutions central to the spread of information and ideas.

I don’t believe that ‘the economic’ can be divorced from ‘the political’ or ‘the social’. But I also appreciate the difference between being tuned into non-economic considerations on the one hand, and fashioning coherent workable rules and standards on the other.

To fully appreciate the complexity and consequences of responding to and regulating (or not regulating) digital competition, we need to understand the economics. But, for me, it is as pressing to interrogate the underlying dynamics and broader implications.

Harnessing voices from a range of disciplines, experiences and world views, Competition Lore provides an independent vessel for a dialogue that promotes this understanding and interrogation.

If you are looking for the usual academic profile you can find mine here. For more of the back story, read this.

Competition Lore