Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan has a method to her madness. Khan files a lawsuit based on a crackpot legal or economic theory, then wastes an enormous amount of taxpayer resources litigating the suit in court only to eventually lose in dramatic fashion.
Today, Khan did it again. The FTC has filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging that the retailer is an illegal monopoly and proposing to dismantle the company. Instead of looking out for consumers, Khan’s lawsuit is about fulfilling a decade-long personal crusade. Much like other antitrust suits Khan has filed since taking over the FTC, this one will fall apart in court.
Khan made her bones in progressive circles with a law school paper arguing for government bureaucrats to break up Amazon, despite the retailer’s overwhelming popularity with American consumers. Since then, Khan has leapfrogged through the George Soros-funded nonprofit world, and served as “counsel” to the House Judiciary Committee despite having a delinquent law license.
Since Khan’s bait-and-switch confirmation two years ago, Khan has relentlessly smashed bipartisan norms to consolidate her agency’s power over the economy. Khan formally abandoned the consumer welfare standard, which stipulates that companies must be demonstrably harming consumers in order for antitrust action to be brought. Khan’s European-style litmus test is pretty simple to understand – if you are a big company, the government will make you pay for the sin of success.
This is not the first shot the FTC has taken at Amazon. In June, the FTC filed a lawsuit that claimed that it was too difficult for consumers to cancel their Amazon Prime membership. As an illustration of how far-fetched that suit is, it takes six clicks to cancel a Prime membership. It takes seven clicks to file comments with the FTC.
Make no mistake about it: today’s suit is part of Khan’s larger plot to reshape the economy in a progressive direction. Khan is on record saying that antitrust should be used to direct “economic outcomes” and attacking the free market as a “product of metaphysical forces.” FTC officials refuse to say whether or not procompetitive mergers and acquisitions are beneficial to the economy. If Khan had her druthers, the FTC would have veto power over all routine business activity.
The Amazon case will play out over years in court, but at first glance it resembles other cases where Khan has tried and failed before. Instead of protecting consumers, Khan is focused on her own personal, progressive agenda. If successful, Khan’s crusade will degrade the products and services American consumers value and rely on.