Thursday, July 16, 2020
I was reading the Biden-Sanders unity task force recommendation this morning and almost fell out of my chair when I got to the part about antitrust. Quite explicitly, it calls for the abandonment of the consumer welfare standard that has guided antitrust for a generation. I can think of nine Justices who think differently but that is a different matter. I also note a change in emphasis - antitrust officials are now called "regulators" rather than "enforcers". This too is a change as to what antitrust is supposed to do as regulation is far more about ex ante restrictions and control than enforcement.
From the recommendation:
Antitrust: Charge antitrust regulators with systematically incorporating broader criteria into their analytical considerations, including in particular the impact of corporate consolidation on the labor market, underserved communities, and racial equity.
I lament that moderation in antitrust, as in other fields and in political discourse more generally, seems to be disappearing. In 2015, antitrust's goal was shared by all except fringes on the left and right. I became a citizen of the United States in 1994. Other than my wedding (technically two weddings as the civil and religious ceremonies were not held on the same day) and the birth of my children, my becoming a citizen is the proudest and happiest day of my life. In 1994, I was active in the College Democrats of America and was happy about how Bill Clinton had moved the Democratic Party to a more center left and inclusive party than what it had been. Today the populists of the right want to dismantle trade, fear technology, and believe in government intervention except when they don't. The the populists of the left behave the same way. Discussion and collaboration has been replaced by name calling, poorly thought through take it or leave it demands, and anger (sometimes outright hatred) on both sides. I think that we all can do better.