Law professor Sharon Foster to speak on the birth of competition law



Photo by Russell Cothren

In this detail from the tympanum of the Sainte-Foy abbey church in Conques, France, a loan shark is depicted to the left of the devil, hanged by his bag of money.

According to the PEW Research Center, the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorest families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016.

This accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few is an eternal problem that has spawned unrest, and that will be part of the theme of a public lecture offered by the U of A Honors College next week.

Sharon Foster, Sidney Parker Davis Jr. Law Professor, will lead the discussion titled “Economic Thinking and Competition Law,” exploring these topics in ancient times and the Middle Ages.

The public lecture will be offered online via Zoom at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 22. Please fill out this form online interest form to access the conference.

“We have a problem with the concentration of wealth,” Foster said. “It causes economic instability; it causes political instability and civil unrest. Do we see this now? What can we learn from the past about what to look for and what to do to correct some of these instabilities? Competition law has provided a great deal of information on many of these issues. “

Foster’s talk will preview the Honors College Spring 2022 Signature Seminar, Economic thinking and competition law.


Economic thinking is the study of what economists thought happened, what happened, or what was about to happen in a particular economy.

Although no history of a true cartel or monopoly in ancient Mesopotamia exists in the historical record, the Reforms of Urkagina, king of the Lagash and Girsu city-states in Mesopotamia, circa 2400 BC. in the hands of a few, concerns that are reflected in modern antitrust jurisprudence.

Likewise, other legal codes of ancient Mesopotamia approach economic justice in terms of preventing high monopoly prices. In the Bible, Genesis 37: 1-11 describes the story of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, which some have described as the story of a grain monopoly.

The study of the economic thought of Antiquity and the Middle Ages provides a better understanding of the origins of competition law, or as it is called in the United States, antitrust law.

Yet, despite an abundant historical literature relating to competition law, there is very little historical analysis of competition law from antiquity or the Middle Ages.

“It’s an extremely long period of time,” Foster said, “but it’s a period of time that hasn’t really received a lot of attention from researchers.”

In Foster’s signature seminar, students will analyze economic thought beginning with the ancient city-states of Mesopotamia from around 2402 BCE to the Middle Ages, ending in 1400 CE.

The main emphasis will be on economic thought regarding cartels and monopolization as expressed through ancient codes, biblical sources, canon law, philosophical writings and literature. Through these sources from Antiquity and the Middle Ages, this Signature Seminar will elucidate the link between primitive economic thought and modern economic theory as it applies to competition law.

“I see the parallels in terms of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few as creating economic instability and, ultimately, political instability,” Foster said. “In particular, after the 2008 financial crisis, we saw that a lot of people were economically displaced. They lost their homes, they lost their jobs, they had to stop going to school. And we’ve seen a bigger gap between the rich in some countries and the poor. And we also saw a shrinking of that middle class where people were economically well off.

Conditions worsened when the pandemic began in 2020, due to labor shortages.

However, there were signs of an economic recovery, including higher wages and a growing middle class.

“Having a strong and robust middle class means that in the long run the economy will be healthier for longer, because we have more people who work, buy and contribute to the gross domestic product,” Foster explained.

Sharon foster joined the Law School of Law School in 2000 and became tenure-track assistant professor in the fall of 2006. Prior to her arrival, she was an assistant professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles from 1998 to 2000. She taught in legal research and writing. Program and has offered courses in international legal research and international finance. She has also coached the Jessup International Law Moot Court team.

Foster received his BA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1983, his JD from Loyola Law School in 1987, his LL.M. in 1997 from the University of Edinburgh and a doctorate. in Law in 2007 from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Between 1987 and 2000, she practiced in private practice in Los Angeles, focusing on construction law and international law. His recent writings focus on antitrust and international law.


Economic Thinking and Competition Law is one of two Honors College signing seminars scheduled for Spring 2022.

The other seminar is Euclid, taught by math professor Edmund Harriss and rare books librarian Joshua Young.

Deans of each college can nominate professors to participate in this program, and those selected to teach will become Dean’s Fellows of Honors College.

Specialized students must apply to participate, and those selected will be designated Dean’s Signature Fellows. The application file is posted on the Signature Seminars web page. The deadline to apply is Monday, October 25.

About the Specialized College: The University of Arkansas Honors College was established in 2002 and brings together high-performing undergraduates and the university’s top faculty to share transformative learning experiences. Each year, Honors College awards up to 90 freshman scholarships that provide $ 72,000 over four years and over $ 1 million in undergraduate and study abroad scholarships. Honors College is nationally recognized for the high caliber of the students it admits and graduates from. Specialized students benefit from small in-depth courses and programs are offered in all disciplines, tailored to students’ academic interests, with interdisciplinary collaborations encouraged. Fifty percent of Honors College graduates have studied abroad and 100 percent of them have participated in supervised research.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A offers internationally competitive education in over 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes to more than $ 2.2 billion for the economy of Arkansas through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while providing training in professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the U of A among the top 3% of colleges and universities in the United States with the highest level of research activity. American News and World Report ranks the U of A among the best public universities in the country. Find out how the U of A is working to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.



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