Trustbusters in Wonderland
When you think about it, the story is even more fantastic than Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
A government—politicians and bureaucrats—which, among other problems, is mired in deficit and debt is suing two companies, Google and Amazon, with which nobody is forced to do business, while the same government is, just to take an example, forcing future taxpayers to finance its vote purchases with trillions of dollars of expenditures, not to mention its continuous misleading advertising.
Each of these companies has to supply free and voluntary consumers with services, often free of charge, lest it be dethroned by competitors. Add that each (and perhaps especially Amazon) deserves a Medal of Freedom for arguably contributing to culture and knowledge more than any government has done.
There is another irony difficult to reproduce in any rabbit hole one can imagine. It is probably true that both companies are owned and managed if not manned by fans of state power who probably thought all along that “progressive” politicos were on their side. Any serious economist or student of Leviathan, I think, could have told them. Whether the lesson is learned or not is an interesting question.
Google has been sued by the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, supervised by Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, while Amazon is sued by the Federal Trade Commission, chaired by Lina Khan.
Biden’s nomination of Lina Kahn, a 32‐year‐old Harvard Law School professor, as head of the Federal Trade Commission marked an attempt at expanding government antitrust action. Confirmed with the help of 21 Republican votes in the Senate, Khan has embarked on a crusade to extend the reach of existing law by developing new legal theories and filing more lawsuits. Mere “bigness” and high technology seem to be her chief concerns, rather than the longstanding consumer‐welfare standard. The antitrust division of the Department of Justice has moved in the same direction. Large corporations are seen as the problem simply because of their size, though there appears to be no parallel concerns about big trade unions and big government. …
The international news magazine The Economist, despite being generally favorable to antitrust laws, has argued that the new crusade against bigness and high tech is unproductive. It threatens American research and development, of which one‐fourth is done by the five largest high‐tech firms. With nearly Schumpeterian accents, the venerable magazine defended the idea that “dealmaking, even involving big firms, is a vital part of healthy capitalism,” which the new antitrust warriors in D.C. do not seem to understand.
Let’s hope that the courts will stop the comedy.