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Fighting 21st C Monopoly Power Reading Group

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The United States has a monopoly problem. Markets are increasingly concentrated across sectors, contributing to lower wages, higher prices, ballooning corporate profits, and political and economic inequality. In response, lawyers, policymakers, and activists are reimagining and reforming the legal foundations that undergird market organization. At the center of their focus lie antitrust law and regulatory policy. In a July 2021 address on competition policy, President Joe Biden–reflecting the influence of today’s antimonopoly movement–said, “We’re now 40 years into the experiment of letting giant corporations accumulate more and more power” by “pull[ing] back on enforcing laws to promote competition.” “I believe,” the President went on, “the experiment failed.”

This reading group will explore the status quo’s failures and some key proposed alternatives. In the first three weeks, students will discuss how law has evolved to facilitate private corporate power and the harms that concentrations of market power cause in the economy and society. The syllabus will then introduce students to some of the key legal tools to address monopoly power, including antitrust, public utility regulation, public options, and other regulatory approaches. The second half of the course will apply these tools and ideas to specific sectors, including finance, health care, agriculture, and pandemic response.

This syllabus is inspired by, and builds upon, the Law & Political Economy Project’s Anti- Monopoly and Regulated Industries Summer Academy. Concerns central to the LPE approach– including questions of power, democracy, and equality–will be at the center of the group’s readings and discussions.

The student organizers of this reading group are Daniel Backman, Brandon Baum, Matt Buck, Colin Burke, Sachin Holdhelm, and Kart Kandula.