In the United States, there is growing debate over the role of antitrust and competition policy in protecting competition and American consumers. Digital platforms, corporate mergers, and consolidation are profoundly changing the global competitive landscape. Can antitrust law temper the power of digital platforms like Google and Facebook? Is the current antitrust legal regime equipped for the 21st Century? Journalist Charles Duhigg explores these topics with Makan Delrahim, head of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division.
Delrahim says no, because there needs to be evidence that competition has been threatened. If and when there’s supporting evidence, the government should take action, he says. His view is that in a healthy free market you want investors to invest in big tech because they are providing the actual competition to the old-line standard-bearers of many industries.
Big IdeaThe Supreme Court has guided us that just being big is not bad. Being big and behaving badly is bad. We don’t want to punish somebody we’ve encouraged to compete.Makan Delrahim
How should we determine consumer welfare when so many things, like Google’s search and Facebook’s networking, are given away for free? If these platforms are giving away something for free, isn’t the consumer benefitting? It helps to take a look back at how we got here.
There are a lot of concerns from small companies feeling edged out by Amazon and Google. Should they be looking beyond antitrust for a solution? It’s complicated, says Delrahim. But vigorous and timely antitrust enforcement, backed by a court that understands economics, is a system of law that works.