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Biden's FTC Nominee Fires a Warning Shot at Amazon, Both Political Parties Cheer

Republicans and Democrats alike have their eyes on Amazon and Google. Let's take a look at events in the US Senate today.
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Warning Shot

In general, if Matt Stoller is for it I am against it. Directly or indirectly he always wants consumers to pay more for goods in the name of competition. 

I have yet found an exception to that general rule, at least that I recall.

I follow many people with whom I disagree. It's important to consider the other side.

Antitrust Rock Star Lina Khan

Today there was a Senate hearing over Biden's FTC appointee Linda Khan.

Stoller notes Lina Khan Fires a Warning Shot at Big Tech - "Potential Criminal Activity" - and Senators from Both Parties Love It.

Today was Lina Khan’s nominating hearing for her slot as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, which is one of America’s antitrust enforcement agencies. Khan is known as a rock star of antitrust, and for good reason. She helped lead the 16-month investigation of big tech firms by the House Antitrust Subcommittee, and before that she wrote one of the most important law review articles in recent history, Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.

That piece, as Senator Amy Klobuchar noted while introducing Khan, went viral, and helped reframe how we understand antitrust and competition law. To have Khan as a nominee for an enforcement slot is therefore quite significant.

Both Republicans and Democrats seemed to appreciate Khan’s approach. Republican Senator Roger Wicker, for instance, asked for her views on Clarence Thomas’ opinions on big tech and common carriage. They went back and forth on the problem of big tech, and you wouldn’t know which was a Democrat and which was a Republican. 

Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox

Kahn is the author of Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox

It's a lengthy bashing of Amazon but with some interesting, and correct observations. 

When pressed on why, critics often fumble to explain how a company that has so clearly delivered enormous benefits to consumers—not to mention revolutionized e-commerce in general—could, at the end of the day, threaten our markets. Trying to make sense of the contradiction, one journalist noted that the critics’ argument seems to be that “even though Amazon’s activities tend to reduce book prices, which is considered good for consumers, they ultimately hurt consumers.

Due to a change in legal thinking and practice in the 1970s and 1980s, antitrust law now assesses competition largely with an eye to the short-term interests of consumers, not producers or the health of the market as a whole; antitrust doctrine views low consumer prices, alone, to be evidence of sound competition. By this measure, Amazon has excelled;

Interest of Consumers

Who should decide what is in the long-term interest of consumers?

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Consumers or activists like Matt Stoller and Linda Khan?

Kahn also questions the focus on consumer welfare arguing that "assessing structure is vital to protect important antitrust values". 

Health of the Market as a Whole

Who should decide the health of the market as a whole?

Consumers or activists like Matt Stoller and Linda Khan?

What If?

If either Stoller or Khan set policy years ago, Amazon, Google, Uber, Lyft, and Microsoft would not even exist.

In the name of protecting consumers and allegedly preserving competition, those companies would have failed or been broken up before they ever got off the ground. 

Instead, consumers do not have to pay absurd taxi prices and they do pay cheap prices at amazon. 

Like it or not, consumers have embraced Amazon, Google, Uber, Lyft, and Microsoft.

Consumers enjoy amazing benefits from Google Maps and other technologies. Google is also responsible for much of the self-driving car technology soon to be in every car.

Competition is now intense on most of these technologies. 

None of those companies could every have started in France, or the EU in general. 

France is still on a mission to save the family-run bookstore. So it seems are Stoller and Khan.

Mish

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