Politics On antitrust and big tech, Biden must return to his centrist roots
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The President of the United States has limited powers to intervene in the raging debates over antitrust and Big Tech. Perhaps most important among those powers are his nominations to lead the antitrust agencies - the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. President Biden has already exercised one of those options in Lina Khan to be a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission and has made a similar decision in appointing Columbia law professor Tim Wu to serve as antitrust czar on the National Economic Council.
Khan and Wu are smart, accomplished thinkers on antitrust and had every right to be selected. Yet, both come from the school of antitrust that is controversial even within the Democratic Party. Unless Biden wants to tie the fortunes of his administration's antitrust policy to neo-Brandeisianism, he should consider appointees with a different philosophical orientation for other key appointments, including the FTC chair and assistant attorney general for Antitrust.
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Hunter Biden’s memoir is notable for what it doesn’t discuss, gliding past deals with shady Chinese businessmen, not mentioning the name of the child he had with a stripper, noting his infamous “purported” laptop only once, and avoiding a Justice Department tax investigation and a missing gun incident altogether. © Provided by Washington Examiner Biden claimed in his book, titled Beautiful Things, that “I became a proxy for Donald Trump’s fear that he wouldn’t be reelected. He pushed debunked conspiracy theories about work I did in Ukraine and China.
Antitrust stands at a generational moment, with everything from whether to bring , to , to the foundational objectives of antitrust up for grabs. To put things generally, there are three broad camps with respect to antitrust.
The first camp - let's call them pro-business conservatives - believes that current antitrust policies and doctrines are about right and that a dramatic shift in antitrust direction would threaten economic efficiency, consumer welfare, innovation, economic freedom, and American interests in the world. A second camp - let's call them reformist centrists - agree with the first camp that antitrust should focus on consumer welfare and economic efficiency, but believe that antitrust enforcement and judicial doctrines have become far too permissive of monopolies and dominant firms. The reformists want to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement by making it easier for the government and private plaintiffs to bring suits. Finally, the neo-Brandeisian camp also wants to significantly reinvigorate antitrust enforcement, but sees the undivided pursuit of consumer welfare and economic efficiency as the root of the problem. Following the philosophy of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice - - the neo-Brandeisians wish to deploy antitrust to challenge corporate dominance whether or not it clearly threatens consumer interests.
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Hunter Biden vs. the Four Horsemen of the Crackocalypse (yes, that’s in the book). That makes the book touching in many places, but unconvincing in others. The most moving writing in the book has nothing to do with politics, or even drugs, but focuses instead on Hunter’s relationship with his brother, Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2015, just as his political fortunes appeared to be ascendant. Back in 1972, Hunter and Beau survived a car accident that killed their mother and sister, a catastrophe he describes with the following chilling detail: “Her head simply swings.
What's interesting about these three camps is that they don't neatly follow partisan lines. A on the political right - although not styling themselves as neo-Brandeisians - have argued for using antitrust law much more vigorously to accomplish social and political objectives like breaking the stranglehold of Big Tech on social and political speech. By contrast, some on the political left and are concerned that an overly aggressive antitrust policy could alienate voters who rely heavily on Big Tech products. I have heard concerns it will create power vacuums to be filled by companies less sympathetic to liberal points of view.
Given all of these political complexities, Biden would be wise not to associate his administration solely with the neo-Brandeisian position. Clearly, he is not going to nominate pro-business conservatives (elections have consequences!) but he should consider including reformist centrists in his antitrust slate. Two important reasons support this conclusion.
Google Used a Secret Program Called ‘Project Bernanke’ to Benefit Clients Using Its Ad-Buying System
Google used a secret program called “Project Bernanke” for years to increase its clients’ chances of winning bids for competitive ad space, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing court documents filed in the Texas-led antitrust suit against Google. The state argues that the program gave Google an unfair competitive advantage against rival ad buying tools and allowed it to pay publishers less for winning bids. © Photo: Drew Angerer / Staff (Getty Images) Ironically, the company spilled the beans on its own secret program.
The first reason is principled. Although there that antitrust needs a course correction, it would be premature to conclude that there is a similar consensus that it requires a wholesale re-thinking. While the neo-Brandeisians have clearly earned a seat at the table, so have at least the reformist centrists.
The second reason is pragmatic. It's far from clear whether the neo-Brandeisian position will achieve broad political support, and it would be politically risky to tie the administration too closely to that camp's fortunes. During the New Deal, President Roosevelt pragmatically made the decision to spread people with a wide set of views about antitrust, competition and big business throughout his administration and called on different ones of them to lead as political winds shifted and facts on the ground evolved. If Biden ties himself to neo-Brandeisianism, he will not have that option.
Big decisions on antitrust remain ahead. The White House would do well to fill out its slate of appointments in a manner that gives it some flexibility as to how to meet them.
Daniel A. Crane is the Frederick Paul Furth, Sr. professor of Law at the University of Michigan.
GOP Faction Wields Antitrust Threats, Echoing Trump’s Populism .
Some of Donald Trump’s most fervent congressional allies are turning to a favorite tool of the former president: threatening antitrust action against American companies that cross them politically on voting rights or other controversial issues. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri last week fired what he called an “opening salvo” to an ambitious trust-busting agenda when he introduced legislation to crack down on mergers by large corporations and give antitrust officials more authority to break up dominant companies.“Their political power is tracking their economic power,” Hawley said about U.S.