In Antitrust Report, House Makes Much Ado About Nothing

This week, the House Judiciary Committee published the final report regarding its “Investigation of Competition in the Digital Marketplace: Committee Report and Recommendations.” While most of the reporting on these documents argue that they “show tech giants pushing out competitors,” the documents generally show healthy, necessary economic competition in action.

The reporting surrounding these documents attempts to simultaneously claim that the conduct of these companies is illegal, while also advocating for the passage of new antitrust legislation, such as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA). This reporting, however, is intrinsically hypocritical. If the behavior is already illegal, why would there be a need for legislation to make the behavior illegal? The desire to frame these actions as criminal while also advocating for legislation that would make the behavior criminal shows an inherent desire by these publications to attack the integrity of these corporations regardless of the facts.

To clear up the discrepancy in the reporting – the behavior noted within the documents is generally not illegal. For this reason, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have failed to successfully prosecute this behavior. Additionally, lawmakers ought not make the actions of these companies to successfully compete ought not be made illegal. Doing so would unnecessarily restrict free enterprise in a way that puts a ceiling on the success of companies, just for operating within the technological sector.

So long as the actions of companies do not impede upon the welfare of consumers, their actions ought not come under intense scrutiny. By upholding this consumer welfare standard that has guided antitrust law since the 1980’s, America will retain its best possible opportunity of overcoming the challenges caused by our staggering inflationary crisis. Luckily, Congress does not appear to be taking the bait. There is no indication that AICOA will be able to get a floor vote before the summer recess, despite Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) promising to put the bill on the floor by early summer.

This political backtracking, however, is quite acceptable. New antitrust legislation risks exacerbating our inflationary crisis, as has been asserted by Former Obama Administration National Economic Council Director Larry Summers. Also, it prevents the Senate from focusing on other important legislation, such as budget reconciliation and measures that will bring down the rising costs of goods.

Republicans must not fall for the bait and deceptive arguments perpetuated by proponents of the bill. Shakespeare warned us that “in a false quarrel there is no true valour.” Yet, there is no quarrel more false than the debate surrounding antitrust reform.

Photo Credit: Medill DC, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons