Antitrust Returns to American Politics

Michael George Haddad

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s announcement on Friday of a plan to break up major tech monopolies like Facebook and Google was critically important — not just as a policy proposal, but also as a sign of the return of antitrust to politics.

In the United States, economic policy is ostensibly a matter of democratic governance, but for too long antitrust has been viewed as a technocratic matter best left to experts. This is a mistake: Excessive corporate size and power can be linked to many voter concerns, including stagnant wages, the invasion of privacy, the rise of fake news, the demise of the middle class and an unresponsive democracy.

Antitrust is especially salient today because we witness the tremendous power of the tech monopolies firsthand, in our daily lives. Nearly everyone uses Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, and nearly everyone can see how smaller businesses have been hurt by their dominance. Nearly everyone has an opinion about whether they are too powerful, whether they know too much, whether they ought to be admired or feared.

Add to these concerns the dangers of agricultural monopolies, rising costs for cable and broadband, and anticompetitive drug pricing, and it is clear that for Ms. Warren and other presidential hopefuls in the Democratic field, the problem of monopoly power should be a central issue — perhaps the central issue — in the 2020 campaign.

Though every Democratic candidate is against President Trump and in favor of working Americans, antitrust is an issue over which the candidates have real disagreement. There are stark differences between, say, Senator Bernie Sanders’s calls to “break them up” (usually a reference to banks), and former Vice President Joe Biden’s “cooperative” approach. Mr. Biden (still undeclared), has taken the position that big…

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