Drain the swamp, lock her up, build the wall… and break them up

teddy

In case Donald Trump needs more of an agenda post-midterms, here’s a helpful suggestion from Glenn Reynolds:

I’ve just finished reading Columbia Law professor Tim Wu’s new book on antitrust, “The Curse of Bigness,” and my biggest takeaway is that President Donald Trump has an opportunity to follow in former President Teddy Roosevelt’s footsteps.

Roosevelt built a strong reputation by going after the trusts, huge combinations that placed control of entire industries in the hands of one or a few men. He broke up John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, the Google of its day. He shut down J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Co., which would have monopolized rail transportation in much of the United States. And he pursued numerous other cases (45 in all) that broke up monopolies and returned competition to markets…

Today, things look a lot like Teddy Roosevelt’s era. A few monopolies occupy much of the tech world: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — FANG, as they’re often abbreviated. They gobble up potential competitors, as Facebook did with WhatsApp and Instagram.

One need only look at the recent multicity scramble for Amazon’s second headquarters to see how much power these companies wield: Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, nonetheless managed to get the state of New York to build him a helipad.

And these new tech monsters have a one-two punch that Standard Oil lacked: Not only do they control immense wealth and important industries, but their fields of operation — which give them enormous control over communications, including communications about politics — also give them direct political power that in many ways exceeds that of previous monopolies.

As Wu writes: “Big tech is ubiquitous, seems to know too much about us, and seems to have too much power over what we see, hear, do, and even feel. It has reignited debates over who really rules, when the decisions of just a few people have great influence over everyone.”

De-FANG them! The added bonus here, of course, is that such action would not require any cooperation from the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives; the laws on the books and the enforcement mechanisms in place are quite sufficient for the job.

I’m by nature somewhat ambiguous about government over-regulation and intervention in the economy, but also increasingly have less and less sympathy for big business. In this battle between the Big Government and the Big Tech I’m happy to sit back with popcorn and enjoy the show.

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