MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Elizabeth Warren’s Antitrust Crusade – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on June 19, 2019

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/06/dom-armentano/elizabeth-warrens-antitrust-crusade/

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Elizabeth Warren has made antitrust a major public policy issue in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. She has argued that several high-tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are just too big and that they should be broken up by the Justice Department in a major antitrust initiative.

Let’s be clear. Using antitrust regulation to break up large companies is an economic and civil liberties nightmare. Those who advocate such policies always fall victim to what Friedrich Hayek termed the “fatal conceit; that is, the assumption that regulators (and the courts) somehow know better than market participants how goods and services should be produced and sold…

Elizabeth Warren has maintained that Amazon, Facebook, and Google are just too big; but too big for whom? She must know that simply being “too big” is not a violation of antitrust law. Indeed, the traditional mission of antitrust is to protect consumers from the high prices and anti-competitive practices established through “conspiracy” or through the exercise of “monopoly power” in some relevant market. Yet Facebook, Amazon and Google do not charge high prices; indeed, they do not charge ANY explicit price at all but secure the bulk of their revenue through advertising. And even if some of their economic or privacy practices are determined to be questionable at some point, that alone would hardly justify any legal divestiture.

The fact remains that all of these companies are successful because consumers freely and repeatedly use their services. They all compete in legally open markets where other firms are free to raise capital and offer alternatives. Disgruntled consumers that choose not to use the free services of Amazon or Google can easily mouse click to other search engines (Bing in the case of Google) and several other online retailers in the case of Amazon. And, of course, no one is forced to participate in the Facebook universe at all (your author does not) and opting out (if you are in) is always possible. So from a strict price and choice perspective, it would be difficult to make a convincing argument that divestiture is justified or would produce the results intended…

Antitrust has a very checkered past and those who advocate its use would do well to study its history more closely. After all, there is almost no economic problem, real or imagined, that cannot be made worse by inappropriate government regulation. Antitrust is no exception.

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