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Albert Foer on Starting the American Antitrust Institute

The president of the American Antitrust Institute and father of a literary brood on the difficulty of getting his advocacy group off the ground

Thinking like a businessman [in the late ’90s] I found an unfilled niche. There was no one out there to support antitrust as a tool for government policy. I talked to Ralph Nader, who helped me conceptualize and start American Antitrust Institute. After about four or five months, there was no money coming in. I sat down with my family [including his wife, Esther, and sons Joshua, a science journalist, Frank, former editor of The New Republic, and novelist Jonathan Safran] and said, “It looks like I’m going to go back to practicing law.” And they said, “Well, this is something you really want to do. We’re not starving—you’re going to take one year and give it all you can.” Immediately, money started coming in, right when I renewed my commitment to it.

This was the time when the potential of the Internet was just beginning to be exploited. I got my son Joshua—author of Moonwalking with Einstein—who was 14 at the time, to develop a website for me. He’d gone to computer camp a few times. So he wrote my first website and got a Yale education in return. Then we developed an advisory board, which is more than 120 people around the entire world—many of the best and brightest in the field. I fell into a virtual network of experts where I am essentially the hub.