Friday, November 8, 2019
The growing nostalgia for past regulatory misadventures and the risk of repeating these mistakes with Big Tech
Christine Wilson (FTC) and Keith Klovers (FTC) discuss The growing nostalgia for past regulatory misadventures and the risk of repeating these mistakes with Big Tech.
Digital markets are increasingly described as the ‘railroads’ of the 21st century. Extending that metaphor, some commentators argue we should revive stale railroad-era economic regulations and adapt them to the digital age. This enthusiasm appears to be buoyed by both a sudden nostalgia for railroad and airline regulations once administered by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and an equally sudden amnesia of the enormous harm those regulations caused to consumers. ICC and CAB regulations are indeed an apt metaphor, as they illustrate perfectly how sectoral regulations sold to the public as simple, clear, and cheap can go awry. Ultimately, a bipartisan consensus emerged to disband those agencies and deregulate those industries. After deregulation, prices fell, output expanded, and firms innovated. Proposals to regulate Big Tech today in a similar fashion forget these important lessons. We should know better than to do the same thing again today and expect a different result.