dEverything old is new again, and that’s turning out to be true in the case of a growing drumbeat to use antitrust tools to rein in big technology companies like Apple, Amazon, Meta, and Google. But as a new policy report from the Pelican Institute points out, expanding the enforcement powers of antitrust agencies will do more harm than good—and an existing approach to protect consumers and producers, while encouraging innovation, is the better path forward.
In their report “Antitrust & Enforcement: Letting Markets Work without Empowering Government,” Ted Bolema, Ph.D., J.D., Antitrust and Competition Fellow at the Innovators Network Foundation, and Vance Ginn, Ph.D., Chief Economist at the Pelican Institute, write that while the current frustrations with the size of large tech companies and censorship practices may be warranted, giving government enforcers and bureaucrats more power is not the answer. Instead, existing antitrust laws and the consumer welfare standard are still the best tools for protecting competition and consumers.
“For the last 50 years or so, scholars and courts have operated with a consensus about the goal of antitrust enforcement: the consumer welfare standard, which asks, ‘does the conduct in question make consumers better or worse off?’” Bolema and Ginn write. “Antitrust enforcement based on the consumer welfare standard protects one of the most important outcomes of the competitive market process and is worth preserving.”
Bolema and Ginn also note that calls to create new antitrust tools in response to conduct by “Big Tech” are misguided and will do far more to empower politicians and government bureaucrats than to prevent abusive conduct by technology companies.
“Expanding the enforcement powers of antitrust agencies — as many on the left and some on the right now wish to do — harkens back to an older ‘big is bad’ approach,” they write. “Rather than promoting competition, such a retrograde approach undercuts the competitive market process which provides more innovation, cheaper prices, and better-quality goods and services necessary for continued human flourishing.” Bolema and Ginn say that the consumer welfare standard—and putting power in the hands of consumers and producers— is the tried and true path to ensuring their best interests.
“As history has proven, empowering people in the marketplace rather than bureaucrats in government results in more efficient and effective outcomes and better supports liberty and prosperity,” Bolema and Ginn conclude.
You can read the full report, “Antitrust & Enforcement: Letting Markets Work without Empowering Government,” here.
Originally published by Pelican Institute.
Vance Ginn, Ph.D.