Un repaso por los planteamientos de la filosofía americana y su historia en cuanto al tema de antimonopolio que empieza a principios del siglo XX y que ha ido transformando su criterio en función de los resultados y la realidad.
Muy en boga ahora mismo por el tema de las GAFA que no trataré en este Post￼￼
Original y luego resaltados, de la revista del Cato.org… regulations winter 2020-21
Contemporary U.S. antitrust law has its roots in the 1970s, with the rise of free-market economists and legal scholars. Robert Bork, who was solicitor general in the mid-1970s, emerged as a towering scholar who argued that antitrust law should have one and only one goal: the maximization of consumer welfare. The reason some companies were growing so large, he argued, was that they were more efficient than their competitors, and so any attempts to break up these firms were merely punishing them for their success. This camp of scholars was informed by the laissez-faire approach of the so-called Chicago school of economics, led by the Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and George Stigler, which viewed economic regulation with skepticism. The Chicago school argued that if antitrust law should be structured to maximize economic welfare, then it ought to be highly restrained. By any standard, this school of thought was an astounding success, influencing generations of judges and lawyers and coming to dominate the Supreme Court. The Reagan administration’s Department of Justice embraced and codified many tenets of the Chicago school, and U.S. antitrust policy has largely settled on a lax approach ever since.
After decades of dominance of the Chicago school, economists have had ample opportunity to evaluate the effects of this approach. What they have found is that the U.S. economy has grown steadily more concentrated across the board—in airlines, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, media outlets, and, of course, technology companies—and consumers have suffered. Many, such as Thomas Philippon, explicitly link higher prices in the United States, compared with those in Europe, to inadequate antitrust enforcement.
Now, a growing “post-Chicago school” argues that antitrust law should be enforced more vigorously. Antitrust enforcement is necessary, they believe, because unregulated markets cannot stop the rise and entrenchment of anticompetitive monopolies. The shortcomings of the Chicago school’s approach to antitrust have also led to the “neo‑Brandeisian school” of antitrust. This group of legal scholars argues that the Sherman Act, the country’s early federal antitrust statute, was meant to protect not just economic values but also political ones, such as free speech and economic equality. Since digital platforms both wield economic power and control communication bottlenecks, these companies have become a natural target for this camp.
It is true that digital markets exhibit certain features that distinguish them from conventional ones. For one thing, the coin of the realm is data. Once a company such as Amazon or Google has amassed data on hundreds of millions of users, it can move into completely new markets and beat established firms that lack similar knowledge. For another thing, such companies benefit greatly from so-called network effects. The larger the network gets, the more useful it becomes to its users, which creates a positive feedback loop that leads a single company to dominate the market. Unlike traditional firms, companies in the digital space do not compete for market share; they compete for the market itself. First movers can entrench themselves and make further competition impossible. They can swallow up potential rivals, as Facebook did by purchasing Instagram and WhatsApp.
But the jury is still out on the question of whether the massive technology companies reduce consumer welfare. They offer a wealth of digital products, such as searches, email, and social networking accounts, and consumers seem to value these products highly, even as they pay a price by giving up their privacy and allowing advertisers to target them. Moreover, almost every abuse these platforms are accused of perpetrating can be simultaneously defended as economically efficient. Amazon, for instance, has shuttered mom-and-pop retail stores and gutted not just main streets but also big‑box retailers. But the company is at the same time providing a service that many consumers find invaluable. (Imagine what it would be like if people had to rely on in-person retail during the pandemic.) As for the allegation that the platforms purchase startups to forestall competition, it is hard to know whether a young company would have become the next Apple or Google had it remained independent, or if it would have failed without the infusion of capital and management expertise it received from its new owners. Although consumers might have been better off if Instagram had stayed separate and become a viable alternative to Facebook, they would have been worse off if Instagram had failed altogether.
The economic case for reining in Big Tech is complicated. But there is a much more convincing political case. Internet platforms cause political harms that are far more alarming than any economic damage they create. Their real danger is not that they distort markets; it is that they threaten democracy.
During the Gilded Age (a. 1877-1907 – populistas, socialistas y progresistas) farmers and workers facing abusive trusts had a problem: certain services worked better when they were national in scope, and there was value in a broad user base. City transit, water delivery, and national railroads needed to be unified, or at least not wholly decentralized. But centralized private power erodes democracy and creates inequality. Populists and progressives solved this problem by applying the ancient principle of “common carriage” to the modern industrial state. Common carriage holds that certain industries serve essential public functions and should be regulated in the public interest—that is, forced to charge reasonable and fixed rates and prohibited from discriminating between purchasers. Gilded Age organizers demanded that the big networked industries be subject to such regulation or be nationalized. For both highly regulated and state-owned industries, they often used the phrase “public utility.” They applied that framework to a wide range of goods and services that were important to society but could not be easily or effectively provided in a decentralized way, such as water, electricity, gas, the telegraph, and transportation
The resulting report calls for “structural separation,” or the breaking up, of Big Tech companies; nondiscrimination regimes for companies that have big network effects (a form of public-utility regulation); the overturning of harmful court decisions; and the enforcement of existing laws against abusive behavior—a regulatory agenda that could easily be extended beyond Big Tech.