The stated goal of antitrust laws is to make sure business are operating fairly, and to protect consumers by ensuring that a competitive marketplace gives them access to more choices, low prices, high-quality goods, and innovative products. In 2021, Congress proposed a number of new pieces of antitrust legislation and dozens of antitrust lawsuits are pending. This wave of antitrust actions will likely reshape the business and regulatory landscape impacting both businesses and consumers.
View the Executive Summary for this brief.
Antitrust laws “are the broad group of state and federal laws that are designed to make sure businesses are competing fairly.” When a group of businesses team up or form a monopoly to control a particular market, the entity is called a trust, hence the term antitrust.
The stated goal of antitrust is to protect consumers by ensuring that a competitive marketplace gives customers access to more choices, low prices, high-quality goods, and innovative products.
In 2021, Congress proposed a number of new pieces of antitrust legislation and dozens of antitrust lawsuits are pending. This wave of antitrust actions will likely reshape the business and regulatory landscape impacting both businesses and consumers.
In November 2021, the Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in federal court to stop a merger between two companies that have the largest shares of an essential commodity in the U.S.: sugar.
The lawsuit aims to stop the United States Sugar Corporation from buying the Imperial Sugar Company. U.S. Sugar is a cooperative that sells sugar produced by itself and three other refiners. If U.S. Sugar were to acquire Imperial, Imperial’s production would be folded into that of U.S. Sugar, and then only two companies (the expanded U.S. Sugar and Domino) would control 75% of sugar sales in the southeast U.S.
The Justice Department argues that the “acquisition would erase competition and raise prices at a time when global supply chains are already under pressure.” U.S. Sugar and Imperial maintain that the merger “‘will improve supply chain logistics and will not result in higher prices or any harm to customers and consumers.’”
The sugar industry is just one of many seeing antitrust lawsuits. In November 2021, the Justice Department also sued to stop publishing company Penguin Random House from acquiring rival Simon & Schuster; and in September, the Justice Department blocked a regional partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue Airways.
In all of these cases, the main question revolves around how consumers will be impacted: whether such alliances would reduce competition, lower the quality of goods and services, and drive up prices; or whether such combinations would increase efficiency and innovation without driving up prices, thus providing more choice for consumers and allowing companies to better manage supply chain issues.
Why it Matters
U.S. antitrust law has evolved since its inception at the end of the 19th century, which makes the general understanding of this section of U.S. law complicated. Even the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia admitted he never understood antitrust law in law school “because it did not make any sense then.”
Today, the objective of antitrust law is “to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for business to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.” This means that while antitrust litigation happens in courtrooms, often involving some of the largest and most well-known companies, as well as the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission, the end results of these cases directly impact individual consumers.
Understanding the basics of antitrust – how it affects competition for goods and services, prices, and innovation – is key to understanding how antitrust affects us and our everyday purchases. It also helps us understand the decision-making processes of the Supreme Court and of our representatives in Congress. From a broader perspective, antitrust law also sets the stage for how businesses function and compete within the U.S. economy, which impacts U.S. businesses’ ability to be competitive in the global marketplace.
Putting it in Context
Competition is often seen “as the driving force of the free-market system.” At the end of the 1800s, however, a few companies started to dominate the market in certain industries. By the 1880s, for example, John D. Rockefeller controlled roughly 90% of the U.S. oil business. In 1882 he created the Standard Oil Trust, with a single board of trustees to control all the stock of all the connected companies. Similarly, J.P. Morgan combined his railroad stocks with those of other captains of industry to create holding companies, seen as another type of trust. Reformers pushed back against “robber barons,” claiming they concentrated wealth and their monopolies dictated prices and wages.
As a response to these concerns, Congress passed the first federal antitrust law in 1890, the Sherman Antitrust Act, “‘aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade’” and monopolization attempts. Despite the legislation, lack of enforcement resulted in an increased number of mergers and trusts in the last decade of the 19th century. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law resulted in rulings that favored business.
President Theodore Roosevelt acted on public demands for “‘trustbusting’” (breaking up monopolies), bringing suits against JP Morgan’s railroad monopoly (1902), Rockefeller’s Standard Oil (1906) and American Tobacco (1907), all of which were eventually broken up after Supreme Court decisions. President William Howard Taft’s Justice Department doubled the number of antitrust lawsuits, including suing Andrew Carnegie’s U.S. Steel, the world’s first billion-dollar corporation.
Around this time, the Supreme Court adopted the legal doctrine known as the “rule of reason,” meaning that instead of a literal interpretation of the Sherman Act, the Court evaluates how a business’s practices are likely to affect competition.
After taking office in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson turned to Congress to deal with monopolies. In 1914, Congress passed:
- The Clayton Act to address practices the Sherman Act did not clearly prohibit, such as price discrimination, as well as mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”
- The Federal Trade Commission Act, which established the FTC and bans “‘unfair methods of competition’” and “‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices’”.
With a few revisions and amendments for more specificity, the Sherman, Clayton, and FTC Acts are still the three core federal antitrust laws in effect. Over time, however, the Supreme Court’s interpretation has changed significantly, particularly during the 1970s when the Court moved away from focusing on market concentration and agreed that consumer welfare was the core goal of the Sherman Act. See this timeline from NetChoice for a full list of landmark antitrust court cases and this backgrounder from Mercatus for a more detailed history.
CNBC takes a deeper dive into the history of antitrust, featured in this short film (11 min):
Basics of Antitrust
The purpose of antitrust laws is to “protect and promote competition to ensure consumers get the lowest prices and the best quality possible.” Antitrust laws are enforced when legal cases are brought in federal court against certain businesses, by enforcement agencies (the Department Of Justice and Federal Trade Commission), state attorneys general, and private plaintiffs. The ultimate decision is up to the courts.
When a case is brought to court, the following pillars of antitrust guide enforcement agencies:
A key component of antitrust law is to “ensure that private market actors compete and that they do not gain or maintain market power other than by competition on the merits.” Competitors in the marketplace interact frequently through trade associations or joint ventures, for example, but sometimes collaborating can give these competitors the ability to wield market power via:
- Price fixing: when competitors agree “to take actions that have the effect of raising, lowering or stabilizing the price of any product or service without any legitimate justification.” For example, sixteen elite universities have been accused of conspiring to reduce financial aid they awarded through price fixing.
- Bid rigging: when competitors agree in advance which firm will win a bid.
- Market division: when competitors agree to divide sales territories, and essentially agree not to compete.
Vertical relationships are the relationships that involve firms at different levels of the supply chain, such as relationships between a manufacturer and dealer, or a supplier and a manufacturer. If a vertical arrangement “reduces competition among firms at the same level… or prevents new firms from entering the market,” it may violate antitrust laws. For example:
- Manufacturer-imposed requirements can be an issue if multiple manufacturers agree to impose price or other restraints up the supply chain, causing price increases; for example, in recent months there has been concern this is happening in food supply chains.
- Exclusive dealing or contracts can be an issue if manufacturers with market power use unfair deals to exclude smaller competitors and prevent them from succeeding in the marketplace;
- Refusal to supply can be an issue if there is an anticompetitive agreement or exclusionary strategy employed for business partners to maintain or acquire a monopoly.
Technically, “it is not illegal for a company to have a monopoly, to charge ‘high prices,’ or to try to achieve a monopoly position by what might be viewed by some as particularly aggressive methods.” Based on the Sherman Act, it is only illegal if the monopoly is achieved by unreasonable methods.
If a case considering whether or not monopolization exists is brought before the FTC or DOJ, investigators must answer the following questions.
- Does the firm have monopoly power in the market? If yes,
- Was that position gained or maintained through improper conduct?
In regards to the first, many courts have found that there is no monopolization if the firm (or group of firms) has less than 50% of sales of a particular product or service within a certain geographic area (although some courts have required even higher percentages). Courts can also consider whether the entry of new firms could affect overall market share.
In regards to the second, investigators must determine whether the monopoly position was through superior products, innovation, and business acumen, or if it was due to means such as exclusive contracts or price fixing.
One high-profile example of an alleged illegal monopoly is the FTC’s ongoing case against Facebook. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission renewed its bid to break up Facebook and voted 3-2 to sue Facebook, alleging that the company is maintaining an illegal monopoly through anticompetitive conduct by stamping out competitors, including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram and 2014 acquisition of up-and-coming rival WhatsApp.
The FTC “alleges that after repeated failed attempts to develop innovative mobile features for its network, Facebook instead resorted to an illegal buy-or-bury scheme to maintain its dominance. It unlawfully acquired innovative competitors with popular mobile features that succeeded where Facebook’s own offerings fell flat or fell apart. And to further moat its monopoly, Facebook lured app developers to the platform, surveilled them for signs of success, and then buried them when they became competitive threats. Lacking serious competition, Facebook has been able to hone a surveillance-based advertising model and impose ever-increasing burdens on its users.”
In response, Facebook said the FTC was attempting to revive a previously dismissed lawsuit, “rewrite antitrust laws and upend settled expectations of merger review, declaring to the business community that no sale is ever final… There was no valid claim that Facebook was a monopolist — and that has not changed. Our acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were reviewed and cleared many years ago, and our platform policies were lawful.”
Mergers and acquisitions is a general term that refers to “the consolidation of companies or assets,” although each has a specific definition. In an acquisition, one company purchases another. A merger is the combination of two firms, “which subsequently form a new legal entity under the banner of one corporate name.”
Of particular concern are horizontal mergers, proposed between direct competitors. By combining two or more companies that were previously owned and operated by separate entities, mergers have the potential to negatively impact competition, and “change market dynamics in ways that can lead to higher prices, fewer or lower-quality goods or services, or less innovation.” If firms are of a certain size, or the merger deal is of a certain value, the firms are required by law to file notice of plans for a merger so the FTC or DOJ can undertake the merger review process and determine the effects the merger may have on the market. The FTC and DOJ have indicated they will update their guidelines to evaluate horizontal and vertical mergers, which many believe is a more aggressive stance.
Vertical mergers occur along the supply chain, such as when a manufacturer merges with a supplier or distributor. Vertical mergers can result in significant cost savings and improve manufacturing and distribution coordination and efficiency for customers. On the other hand, such mergers could “make it difficult for competitors to gain access to an important component product or to an important channel of distribution.”
The Role of Government
The House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary have jurisdiction over antitrust matters. In particular, the House’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law and the Senate’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights have oversight of antitrust laws and enforcement policy, particularly at the DOJ. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security also have oversight of the FTC.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division enforce federal antitrust laws. In particular, the DOJ handles criminal and civil enforcement, as well as cases involving certain industries such as airlines, banking, railroads, and telecommunications. The FTC handles civil cases relating to certain segments of the economy, especially where consumer spending is highest, such as health care, pharmaceuticals, professional services, food, energy, computer technology, and internet services.
These two entities conduct the investigations that arise from premerger notification filings, correspondence from consumers or businesses, and congressional inquiries. This often includes conducting market research. If the investigation finds evidence of potential negative impact on the marketplace, investigators ask the firm(s) to agree to resolve the anti-competitive aspects or stop the disputed practices. If the firm(s) do not agree, the investigating agency can take the firm(s) to court for civil penalties, consumer redress, or to block the proposed merger.
The DOJ can sue in federal court to stop anti-competitive conduct or obtain criminal convictions. The FTC can file an administrative complaint, which is similar to a federal court trial but before an administrative law judge at the FTC. The FTC can also file an injunction in federal court.
See the list of antitrust case filings, from the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, here.
Most states have antitrust laws that are similar to federal laws. State laws apply to antitrust violations that occur within the state, and are enforced through offices of the state attorneys general. State attorneys general may also file civil antitrust suits in federal court under the Clayton Act on behalf of individuals residing within their state, or on behalf of their state as a purchaser.
The Private Sector
Antitrust law is thoroughly intertwined with the private sector. First, the main purpose of antitrust law is to protect consumers, or private citizens. Most antitrust cases are brought by businesses and individuals seeking damages for violations of the Sherman or Clayton Acts.
Second, antitrust laws do impact private business and the marketplace, as they are meant to support a vibrant entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem in all industries. On one side of antitrust law is the idea that markets are easily distorted by private firms, and this distortion needs to be corrected with public intervention. Opponents of this thinking doubt public intervention could cure economic defects, and argue the self-correcting ability of markets is reliable enough in its own right.
For more on the functioning of U.S. economic markets, see The Policy Circle’s Free Enterprise Brief.
Challenges & Areas for Reform
Supply chains are just one of the many aspects of commerce disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. In November 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began a supply chain study to collect information from large companies, including Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Heinz Co. The study is seeking details on:
- “The primary factors disrupting their ability to obtain, transport, and distribute their products;”
- “The impact these disruptions are having in terms of delayed and canceled orders, increased costs and prices;”
- “The producers, suppliers, and inputs most affected;”
- “And steps the companies are taking to alleviate disruptions.”
The order will not solve any bottlenecks, but some experts say it is meant to investigate price increases that stem from improper business practices. According to Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, there has been “‘an incredible amount of consolidation in the supply chain’” after “‘40 years of unbridled consolidation and lax merger enforcement.’” Others argue the order is an overreach, and that price increases reflect the workings of supply and demand.
The order reflects the FTC’s priorities in determining supply chain health. Historically, as pointed out by Diana Moss, vertical mergers have not been as strictly scrutinized as horizontal mergers. The pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions have prompted new concerns about supply chain health, suggesting that consolidation within supply chains will be investigated. As the FTC handles mostly consumer affairs, the industries that will see the most scrutiny are those that directly impact consumers and their daily lives, including agriculture, digital technology, health care and pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and transportation.
The resiliency of supply chains is weakened when there is market concentration, or few companies to choose from to supply a certain item. The baby formula shortage that parents across the U.S. have been facing in 2022 is one example. The U.S. normally produces 98% of the baby formula consumed in the U.S. is produced domestically, and only four companies – Abbott, Reckitt, Nestlé, and Perrigo – control about 90% of the U.S. market for baby formula. This left consumers vulnerable to supply shocks when Abbott – which produces 40% of America’s baby formula – needed to shut down one of its three production facilities after an FDA inspection. In May, the FTC launched an inquiry into the ongoing shortage to better understand current concentration and investigate any potential unfair business practices.
Government contracting has added to the market concentration. Just over half of baby formula purchased in the U.S. is purchased through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federal nutrition assistance program for pregnant women and children under age five. In each state, one formula company is contracted as a supplier; about 90% of the formula available through WIC is provided by only 2 companies.
CNBC breaks down what’s behind America’s baby formula shortage (11 min):
Over the past several years, particularly since 2018, major technology companies from Amazon and Apple to Google and Facebook have testified before U.S. lawmakers, answering questions on competition and privacy practices.
This is not limited to the U.S.; in November 2021, the U.K.’s competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), ordered Facebook to sell Giphy, its GIF-sharing platform. The CMA cited concern over “so-called ‘killer acquisitions’ – the ability of tech giants to flex their financial muscle to protect market power by buying budding competition to defuse the risk posed by startups and new services (sometimes literally by closing them down post-purchase).” The European Commission has also filed antitrust suits against Google, claiming the search engine’s price comparison service allowed it to gain an unfair advantage over smaller rivals in Europe. In November 2021, Google lost its appeal of a 2017 $2.8 billion EU antitrust decision – the first of three EU antitrust penalties totaling more than $8 billion levied against Google in recent years.
One of the reasons why there’s an antitrust spotlight on the big tech industry is due to the fact that these companies interact with consumers’ daily lives more than the average company. In this podcast, AEI’s Mark Jamison explains the viewpoints driving the complaints against – and legislation aimed at breaking up – big tech. Privacy is one concern, as these companies are inextricably linked to individuals based on the way they collect and use data, which sets them apart from other industries. A second concern is driven by the idea that large businesses are inherently bad, as their size could give them the power to limit entry to competitors, fix prices to maximize profit, and ignore consumer concerns because there are few or no other industry competitors. By this logic, the government needs to break them up to reduce market concentration and foster competition (a remedy that the courts have not imposed for many decades).
Many large tech companies have made their fortunes through targeted advertising, made possible by their access to user data. Essentially, the argument is that this access to data has contributed to the growth and power of big tech. But whether this is an area of reform for antitrust law to address is up for debate, as is whether many current proposals would do more harm than good in addressing privacy and security.
Nancy L. Rose, Professor of Applied Economics at MIT, explains that privacy and antitrust laws tend to be at odds. For example, protecting consumers’ privacy might restrict who gets access to certain data, which could also be important for potential competitors to be viable in the marketplace. Maureen Ohlhausen, a Global Antitrust and Competition lawyer with Baker Botts LLP and former acting Chairman and Commissioner of the FTC, adds that passing a federal privacy law based on data concerns would better address privacy concerns, rather than broadening the scope of antitrust laws to pull other issues in. For more on privacy issues, see The Policy Circle’s deep dive on Data Privacy and Cybersecurity.
Some studies indicate that competition in the U.S. marketplace is in decline. In July 2021, the White House issued an executive order on promoting competition in the U.S. economy, citing statistics that illustrate corporate consolidation in over 75% of U.S. industries over the past two decades, including healthcare, financial services, and agriculture. Another study adds that this consolidation is contributing to rising prices, explaining that “[t]he rise in the average markup is driven by a few firms in the top of the distribution.”
On an international level, according to the World Competitiveness Rankings from the International Institute for Management Development, the U.S. ranked first worldwide in overall marketplace competitiveness in 2018; third in 2019; and tenth in 2020 and 2021. In terms of economic performance, the U.S. ranked first in 2018 and 2019; second in 2020; and fifth in 2021.
Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute argues that competition analysis is not that straightforward; looking at how competitive the overall economy is tends to be too difficult, so most research – including the cited studies from the White House executive order – focuses on market concentration and implicitly links concentration with competition.
Peter Thiel and Blake Masters argue in their book Zero to One that some of this concentration is due to people not innovating as much as in the past. More entrepreneurs and start-ups are taking on existing innovations rather than seeking industry areas where they can carve out something new. Thus, their argument is that putting restrictions on companies like Google so that more people can build more Googles to increase competition is not the kind of innovation that will make technological progress.
Others make the case that, despite their size, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are not monopolies to begin with. A September 2020 report from NetChoice notes that no company has monopoly power in the digital market, defined by the DOJ as a 66% threshold. Based on NetChoice’s data, Amazon’s share of the e-commerce market in the U.S. is 38%. Additionally, in terms of digital competitiveness, the World Competitiveness Rankings have ranked the U.S. in first every year since 2018.
Different stakeholders tend to have different viewpoints when it comes to the power of big tech. For example, more than 200 newspapers have filed suit against Google and Facebook, arguing “that the tech giants colluded to rig ad markets so that they could misappropriate ad revenues that were properly owed to the publishers.” On the other hand, many small- and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs have expressed concerns about legislation that would prohibit platforms like Amazon from favoring their own products. Amazon reports this could limit its ability to offer its platform to sellers. NetChoice’s Trace Mitchell adds that when the government argues that “Google is harming Americans because its products are preinstalled…the government forgets that American consumers don’t think this is a problem” in terms of convenience.
Instagram provides an example of market power/convenience trade-offs. Prior to Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram had no revenue streams, no plans for earning revenue, 20 million users, and a spam problem. Since Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram makes over $20 billion in ad revenue, has over 1 billion users, has spam blockers, and connects millions of small businesses on its platform. Essentially, while this makes Facebook more integrated into the daily lives of anyone on social media, it has also expanded opportunities and connections for its users.
In Congress, there seems to be a bipartisan dislike of big tech, resulting in numerous Congressional hearings and even proposed legislation. Where policymakers differ, according to AEI’s James Pethokoukis and Mark Jamison, is why big tech should be broken up (or subject to other constraints), and how to do so. These different diagnoses may make it difficult for legislative efforts to come to fruition. For example, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would block big tech platforms from giving preferential treatment to their own products, advanced from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate floor. However, even supporters “expressed reservations about its current composition,” and policymakers from both sides of the aisle withdrew amendments during the committee markup “with the caveat that they wanted opportunities to address their issues with the bill before a floor vote.”
An even broader debate is whether antitrust legislation is even the best avenue to pursue. The Federalist Society takes a deep dive into the debate surrounding antitrust and big tech in this short video (13 min):
When considering market concentration and competition, another area of concern is that big tech companies “have become indispensable for the speech of billions: and as such have extensive power in their “ability to deny access to the platforms that shape our public discourse,” explains ACLU Lawyer Kate Ruane. Lawmakers are considering antitrust legislation for this reason as well, which would likely impact Section 230.
Section 230 is a component of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that protects internet service providers and online platforms “from liability for decisions they make about the content they host,” meaning they cannot be held liable (in most cases) for what third parties (ie: users) post. Section 230 was originally meant to enable innovation, protect the then-nascent industry, and encourage platforms to remove harmful content. Technology has changed substantially since the 1996 Act; platforms use algorithms to promote their content and connect users, and also offer users an array of services including communications, access to media, and engagement in commerce.
The antitrust argument comes into play here because many think that the protections provided by Section 230 have allowed big tech companies to grow to a level such that they no longer need these protections. Others are less inclined to use anti-monopoly tools to address content moderation issues, as this would shift away from the objective standards of competition policy. Neil Chilson and Casey Mattox from the Charles Koch Institute argue, “current free speech concerns are not caused by a lack of competition,” and breaking up these platforms could make content moderation online worse by increasingly forcing citizens into “silos of common opinion.”
If and how such concerns fall within the purview of antitrust laws remains to be seen. For more on the Section 230 debate and big tech, see The Policy Circle’s Free Speech Brief.
Antitrust has long been an area where stakeholders talk openly about market power, “the balance of power between consumers and enterprises, big and small businesses, and government and private businesses.” But when it comes to what antitrust laws should do, the balance of power lies among lawmakers, enforcing agencies, and the courts.
As discussed in the History section above, the last forty years of antitrust policy has focused on economic efficiency and consumer welfare. Today, there are calls that competition and antitrust laws should advance societal goals. Policymakers and enforcement agencies are looking at using antitrust to address “a variety of social, economic, and political friction points, including employment, wealth inequality, data privacy and security, and democratic values.” Others argue that using antitrust law to address other social goals or policy priorities “undermines what antitrust regulators do best: conduct empirical analysis of specific business practices to protect consumers from competitive harm.”
The July 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy is one example. According to an analysis by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, the executive order encourages the FTC to “expand its enforcement and focus on certain industries vulnerable to competitive restraint because of consolidation and concentration.”
Another example is the FTC’s efforts to broaden its scope. In 2021, the FTC revoked a 2015 statement that limited the agency’s enforcement and prevented it from addressing “potential anticompetitive practices.” Many believe this shift is a way for the FTC to broaden its enforcement to big tech entities, which had previously been out of reach of the FTC’s enforcement power. Lawmakers’ endeavors to draft new antitrust legislation to address big tech’s market power has the potential to take these shifts one step further.
University of Michigan Law School professor Daniel Crane explains, “It is hard to judge at any given moment how much political support for antitrust intervention is motivated by genuine concern over monopoly and competition, and how much of it derives from the fact that, in the face of popular demand for a governmental cure to a perceived evil, it is often easier to delegate the solution to antitrust than to propose a regulatory solution.”
Concerns about shifts in the focus of antitrust lie in the debate between whether antitrust should address the welfare of consumers or the power of competitors. Concerns about the enforcement of antitrust lie in the suggested role of government. Some propose the government should regulate – or at least have more control over – markets, while others trust markets and want the government to act as no more than a referee.
Knowledge of antitrust law and the current debates can help us understand the subtle differences between these two viewpoints. This foundational background provides a basis for determining the best path forward for the role of antitrust law in today’s society.
Ways to Get Involved/What You Can Do
Measure: Find out what your state and district are doing about antitrust.
- Do you know the state of market competition or concentration in your state?
- What are your state’s antitrust laws?
- What antitrust litigation has occurred in your state?
- Does your state have an office or division of consumer affairs?
Identify: Who are the influencers in your state, county, or community? Learn about their priorities and consider how to contact them, including elected officials, attorneys general, law enforcement, boards of education, city councils, journalists, media outlets, community organizations, and local businesses.
- Who is your state’s attorney general?
- Who is in charge of consumer affairs in your state?
- What steps have your state’s or community’s elected and appointed officials taken?
Reach out: You are a catalyst. Finding a common cause is a great opportunity to develop relationships with people who may be outside of your immediate network. All it takes is a small team of two or three people to set a path for real improvement. The Policy Circle is your platform to convene with experts you want to hear from.
- Find allies in your community or in nearby towns and elsewhere in the state.
- Foster collaborative relationships with local businesses by reaching out and discussing how business owners feel about competition policy.
Plan: Set some milestones based on your state’s legislative calendar.
- Don’t hesitate to contact The Policy Circle team, email@example.com, for connections to the broader network, advice, insights on how to build rapport with policy makers and establish yourself as a civic leader.
- The Policy Circle’s Civic Leadership Engagement Roadmap (CLER) is an innovative, action-oriented program designed to educate and prepare impact-driven professionals dedicated to making a change through civic action. One-on-one coaching, peer discussions, and networking opportunities help build participants’ confidence to engage with leaders and build local connections in their communities.
Execute: Give it your best shot. You can:
- Discuss the the role of small and large businesses on the economy with family, friends, and neighbors
- Talk to small business owners and entrepreneurs in your community to understand their perspectives on antitrust rules, regulations, and the power of larger firms.
- Visit the FTC’s website to stay up to date on the most recent policy
- Pay attention to open comment periods that allow individual citizens to comment on proposed regulations
- Keep track of potential antitrust legislation.
Working with others, you may create something great for your community. Here are some tools to learn how to contact your representatives and write an op-ed.
Stanford Cyber Policy Center: Antitrust and the Big Tech Platforms
AEI: How Can Congress Act More Constructively on Antitrust?
AEI: Mark Jamison on Antitrust Laws and Big Tech
The American Antitrust Institute
Cato Institute: Baby Formula and Beyond: The Impact of Consolidation on Families and Consumers