As political and academic progressives expand their frenzied attacks on “wealth” and on the alleged transgressions of “big business,” antitrust regulation is suddenly back in vogue big time.
As an example, take the off-the-wall proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren ( D-Mass.) that firms such as Amazon and Google be regulated as public “platform” utilities and that several of their recent acquisitions be divested to increase “competition.” Or take the radical perspectives of long-time progressive Robert Reich, who argued in a recent USA Today column that antitrust regulation should aim to break up Facebook, Amazon and Google like the courts broke up the older “railroad, oil, and steel monopolies.” According to Reich, “monopolists aren’t good for anyone except for the monopolists.”
In some sense these proposals and alleged historical accounts are not to be taken seriously since they are based on an almost total misunderstanding of monopoly theory and of the history of antitrust regulation. On the other hand, the political power of poor theory and fake economic history should never be underestimated.
Senator Warren’s suggestion that we regulate Amazon and Google like governments regulate electric or water companies ignores the fact that public utilities are poor performing monopolies because governments protect them by law from competition. On the other hand, Amazon and Google compete in free markets and have earned their respective market positions through efficiency and repeated customer support.
Against the State: An …
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Ironically, both of these companies are antitrust targets of…