The starting observations of the proposed research are three:
(a) competition (or 'antitrust') policy has ambiguous distributive effects and sometimes affects competitiveness in unforeseen ways;
(b)European Social Democracy is mutating - perhaps at different speeds across different countries - but not steadily declining; and
(c) we know very little about the preferences and effects of Social Democratic parties on national competition policies, and thus on a fundamental aspect of modern governance of European markets. The research questions are therefore the following two. First, to what extent, how and why do Social Democrats' preferences regarding competition policy evolve? Second, what is the effect of Social Democratic governments on these policies? The independent variables are operationalised measures of internal politics and europeanisation for the first question, and macro-coalitional and sector-specific institutional factors for the second question.
The research thus bridges several branches of political science and policy analysis literature, including party-policy, rational choice institutionalism and path dependence. I expect to find that, despite the technical character of competition policy, europeanisation does not directly influence those parties' policy preferences because of internal veto players. Regarding the impact of Social Democratic governments, I expect to find that the degree of regulator independence matters little, because such governments attempt to influence the policy only "indirectly", through legislation. Again, what matters most is the structure of the government. These results may be generalisable to other EU Member States and to other political parties, especially when controlling for the relative weight organised interests and epistemic communities.
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