Is Blockchain the Death of Antitrust Law? The Blockchain Antitrust Paradox

Cite as: 3 GEO. L. TECH. REV. 281 (2019)

Blockchain fever is hotter than ever. The World Economic Forum predicts that ten percent of global gross domestic product will be stored on blockchain by 2027,1 which has caused an unparalleled craze regarding blockchain’s possibilities.2 Some see it as a new way of organizing modern-day society,3 while others fear the chaos that it could create.4There are skeptics5 that deride blockchain as the new Netscape,6 while others see it as the most important innovation since the Internet.7 If the latter proves to be true, societies will radically change and so too must legal systems.
Western legal systems have historically helped establish trust between parties and reduce transactional uncertainty by providing recourse to legal procedures. Nonetheless, establishing trust still imposes significant transactional costs. Blockchain may reduce these costs to “a much, much smaller level”8 because it might make contracting easier and, on a broader scale, because it may alleviate widespread contractual inadequacy9 by creating a world in which “computers . . . fill in the gaps of contracts.”10 Blockchain could then efficiently facilitate trade, but it also presents numerous legal challenges with substantial implications for antitrust law.

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Dr. Thibault Schrepel

Assistant Professor at Utrecht University School of Law, Associate Researcher at University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Invited Professor at Sciences Po Paris.
This paper has been prepared for the OECD hearing Blockchain and Competition Policy, which took place in June 2018. A first draft has been published via SSRN on June 2018. I am grateful to friends and colleagues who have helped me throughout the process of writing this article—especially John Newman (Concurrentialiste’s best co-author) and Spencer Waller, people at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center (especially Nathan Kaiser and Nikolas Guggenberger), people at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (especially Jonathan Cardenas), people at the Yale Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking (especially Martin Wainstein), Kevin Werbach, Julie Maupin, Bastien Teinturier and Benoit Vovan. The Journal editors are also warmly thanked. No outside funding was received or relied upon for this paper and I do not have any financial interest at stake in blockchain. All views and errors are mine.