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‘Antitrust’ by Amy Klobuchar, and ‘The Tyranny of Big Tech’ by Josh Hawley

  • May 17, 2021

Mr. Hawley’s book opens with an anecdote of a 2019 meeting with Mark Zuckerberg in which the senator says he challenged Facebook’s boss to break up his company. (Zuckerberg said no, not surprisingly.) “The tech barons have risen to power on the back of an ideology that blesses bigness — and concentrated power — in the economy and government,” Mr. Hawley writes.

And Ms. Klobuchar: “The sheer number of mergers and acquisitions, outsized monopoly power and grotesque exclusionary conduct in the Big Tech sector exemplifies what is going on with the power of BIG.”

Quite similar, no?

Mr. Hawley and Ms. Klobuchar are channeling a view among some economists and legal scholars that the accelerating concentration of many American industries is a root cause of many problems, including income inequality. In this view, if U.S. laws more effectively enforced competition, Americans would have better health care, cheaper cellphone bills and more control over what happens to our digital data.

Wow, they love Teddy Roosevelt. Both senators are nostalgic for when the former president challenged the big corporate barons of his day in railroads, oil, finance and other industries. (This view of history, but especially Mr. Hawley’s, is a little off base.)

The point of the hero worship is to say that U.S. law and the American public throughout history have fought back against companies they felt were getting too powerful. The senators want to bring back that spirit of both citizen and government rebellion against corporate “bigness.” This is also a point that the law professor and antimonopoly advocate Zephyr Teachout made effectively in her book on corporate monopolies last year. (Yes, there are a lot of books about antitrust.)

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