In Paul Gowder’s recent blog post, as well as in his new book, he argues that we should democratize, rather than dismantle or restructure, Big Tech platforms. However, this familiar framing obscures more than it reveals, relying upon an impoverished account of the political economy of technology, of the co-evolution of politics and production, and of the core role of material infrastructure in digital settings.
Stephen Breyer called it more valuable than circuit court precedents and Supreme Court Justices. Yet the Areeda-Hovenkamp treatise on antitrust law adopts misleading legal interpretations that systematically favor corporate power in at least two key areas: thresholds for exclusive-dealing foreclosure and the efficiencies defense for mergers. Time for a reappraisal of an antitrust staple.
With bipartisan calls to break up big tech, it is worth pausing to ask whether the proposed remedy matches the diagnosis of the problem. Antitrust breakups work best when there’s a clear conflict between public and company interests. Yet with some of the most pressing problems – such as the spread of disinformation – company and public interests plausibly converge. An alternative approach would be to keep tech companies intact but integrate users and workers more directly into their governance systems.
Neo-Brandeisian and other legal scholars generally associate Brandeis with America’s own anti-monopoly traditions. Yet Brandeis himself drew inspiration from developments unfolding across the Atlantic, and in contrast to Postwar America, where many of his institutional insights were eventually abandoned, the European competition regime has gradually gravitated toward an increasingly Brandeisian approach.
An alliance between religious and economic conservatives is playing a central yet overlooked role in the resurgence of concentrated economic power in America, resulting in the transfer of public funds, services, and decision-making away from more democratic institutions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rise of “government-religious hospitals”: these hospitals are state owned, yet religion permeates their halls, and faith dictates the care they offer. To mitigate the risk that these arrangements pose, we must make innovative use of LPE’s tools, including antitrust, public utility regulation, and public options.
Eight friends of the blog offer their initial reactions to the FTC’s proposed rule to ban non-compete agreements.
Seven friends of the blog offer their initial reactions to the FTC’s recent policy statement on unfair methods of competition.
The economic style of thinking has undeniably constrained progressive ambitions. Yet this framing overlooks a secondary role that the economic style plays in political life: it provides cover for explicitly conservative and reactionary arguments by cloaking them in seemingly apolitical, technical expertise.
In charting economists’ pernicious influence on public policy, Beth Popp Berman contrasts an “economic style,” which focuses on efficiency, choice, and competition, with an alternative approach that favors equality, stability, and democratic participation. But that framing is not faithful to the actual debates that took place, out of which the economic style achieved its dominance, because it gives no account of the alternative economic views and theories that were displaced.
William Novak’s New Democracy demonstrates that the long progressive era was devoted to a reconfiguration of the very nature of modern American capitalism. Yet we must not lose sight of the different visions of state, economy, and democracy that comprised the progressive project.
To conclude our symposium on Root & Branch Reconstruction in Antitrust, this post offers a glimpse into an alternative universe where horizontal coordination among small players is embraced as a social good.
While a properly designed association of contract workers could pass muster under current Sherman Act antitrust jurisprudence, any such association will face serious practical impediments.
In the fight to regulate the gig economy, unions, workers, and their allies have only fought half the battle: they have tried to defend the definition of employment against technology-enabled erosion. Antitrust prohibitions against vertical restraints, which prevent firms from exercising control in the absence of an employment relationship, offer a complementary strategy to address the threat posed to workers by the gig economy.
Over the past four decades, a tidal wave of corporate mergers has resulted in industry concentration, higher prices, and reduced productive capacity. The U.S. wireless industry in the 2010s offers a case study of the public benefits of strong anti-merger law.
Given the shortcomings of the prevailing antitrust framework, a growing chorus of voices is calling for a ground-up reconstruction of competition law and policy. But what would that look like? This symposium offers an affirmative vision of the new antitrust.