Would you like to read a US Senator’s book on antitrust law? No? what about Two US Senators wrote about antitrust law?
Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, recently published 825-page books about the history of America’s suspicions of large and powerful corporations.
I read them both and I would not recommend that other humans follow my sin.
But the books are only great if they are agreed upon by senators on opposite sides of the political spectrum: They want tougher regulation, new laws, more aggressive judges and citizen movements to tame what they see as America’s very large business elite, especially tech powers like Google and Facebook. And Amazon. The acronym for these two books is Teddy Roosevelt was good and big technology is bad.
I don’t want to draw too much of a false par. Mrs. KlobucharAntitrust“It has been researched in depth and thoroughly. (Perhaps very comprehensive.) Mr. Hawley said,”Tyranny of big tech companiesIt’s a pretty incoherent mess. But let me explain some of what I learned from reading it:
Senators agree that the old is a bad thing. One of the strangest scenes in modern American politics is how powerful tech companies like Google and Facebook have generated bipartisan hatred. They have few friends. Certainly not those writers. For them, the power of tech companies is a symbol of what happens when big companies are often left alone to do what they want. It’s really strange how they look alike.
Hawley’s book opens with an anecdote about a 2019 meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, in which the senator said he challenged the Facebook boss to break up his company. (Zuckerberg said no, not surprising.) “Tech tycoons have risen to power against a backdrop of an ideology that blesses power – and the concentration of power – in the economy and government,” wrote Mr. Hawley.
Ms. Klobuchar: “The sheer number of mergers and acquisitions, the huge monopoly power and the extraordinary ugly behavior in the big tech sector embodies what is happening with the power of BIG.
Very similar, isn’t it?
Mr. Hawley and Mrs. Klobuchar provide the view of some economists and legal scholars that Accelerating the concentration of many US industries It is the root cause of many problems, including income inequality. From this point of view, if US laws enforce competition more effectively, Americans will have better healthcare, cheaper cell phone bills, and more control over what happens to our digital data.
Wow, they love Teddy Roosevelt. Both senators feel nostalgic for the time when the former president challenged the top corporate barons of his day in the railways, oil, finance and other industries. (This view is dated, But Especially Mr. Hawley, A little outside the norm.)
The point of hero worship is to say that American law and the American public throughout history have resisted corporations they felt became more powerful. Senators want to restore the spirit of both the citizenry and the government in revolt against the corporate “gigantic”. This is also a point that professor of law and antitrust Zephyr Teachout defends Made effectively In her book on corporate monopolies last year. (Yes, there are a lot of books out there about antitrust.)
If you want to read at length about the Pullman Strike of 1894 and the Grange anti-agricultural monopolization movement after the Civil War, Mrs. Klobuchar has the book for you. Both senators are trying to get people to see and care about the consequences of corporate monopolies in their lives. Their common message is that people who feel that the system and the economy are not working in their favor should participate in antitrust law.
Best idea: Stop calling it “antitrust”. Ms. Klobuchar says the word is made by nineteenth century giants like Standard Oil and has no meaning for Americans in the twenty-first century. She is right. Instead, Ms. Klobuchar says, we should start talking about competition policy, monopolies, or simply “bigness”. And yes, Ms. Klobuchar admits that her book is titled “Antitrust”.
What about Congress? Both senators agree that government watchdogs and courts have failed to prevent large corporations from becoming larger and abusing their power. Nobody takes time to blame themselves and their congressional peers for this.
The job of the legislative bodies is to write laws that tell companies what they can and cannot do, and empower government oversight bodies such as the Ministry of Justice with money and the power to enforce the rules. In other words, this is your job, senators. In their books, senators freely mentioned the bills they proposed to restrict major tech companies. They are less willing to talk about failing to pass those laws or whether they are good ideas in the first place.
Mrs. Klobuchar, for example, drove the Legislation in 2017 It would have forced internet companies such as Facebook to disclose what the organizations spend on political ads, similar to disclosures to traditional media. Did not pass.
Senators are the best when they talk about themselves. Ms. Klobuchar talks about relatives who immigrated from Slovenia in the early nineteenth century and worked in mines with appalling conditions and low wages. In her account, she would not have reached what it is today without ordinary citizens fighting against big and bad companies and demanding laws to better curb monopolies and provide real competition for their workers.
Mr. Hawley is most effective when he talks about his concerns as a parent. Like many of us, he spends a lot of time on his phone and says his kids noticed it. It hurts when his young son is drawn to smartphones and tablets, and tries to be more aware of the time and attention his family devotes to screens.
I’m not sure Mr. Hawley’s beef has much to do with the power of the big tech companies rather than the general collapse of our brains thanks to our constant access to gadgets. Screen time effects Not very clear. But Mr. Hawley has a few ideas worth listening to: an emphasis on real-life communities, not just those we interact with through screens. The government should step in to block technologies like websites that allow people to scroll forever without end and automated recommendations that feed us video after video from YouTube or TikTok.
Suggestions for reading: I wouldn’t hand over any of the senators’ book to people curious about why they paid so much for medication or worried about getting their kids addicted to Instagram. Instead, I will propose two other works that go down similar grounds but are shorter, more readable and truly influential among people who care most about the impact of powerful companies on the world.
Tim Woo’s 2018 Book,The curse of arroganceIt is a short, breezy, and captivating history of American monopolies and the risks it sees from powerful companies today. (Did I mention it is short?) Lina Khan 2017 Law School Review Paper, “The Amazon antitrust paradox,” was an intellectual cannon Decades of evolution questioned US law And how it failed to account for the impact of the forces of new companies such as Amazon.