There are many things that can be said about the Judicial Committee’s investigation into the tech companies and possible monopolies. Or, to use a slightly weaker formulation, market power. One that did immediately strike is that in the intro we’re told that it was a bipartisan investigation. Which is true, but this report is not bipartisan, it’s purely and only the Ds on the committee shouting about what they think. It is, that is, something of a biased reading of that evidence collectively collected.
Which does pose something of a problem. For there’s a split – largely coincident with political lines although not exactly so – over views on monopoly and market power. On the one side those who insist that any market player with market power is something that needs to be controlled, that power curtailed. This is largely a D belief and is similarly coincident with the insistence that politics only must be allowed to have such power. As if having Sherrod Brown BigIAmming over us is better than having Jeff Bezos doing so.
Well, OK, we can see the attraction for this set up among those who might become Senator Brown but without the skill, talent or application to become Jeff Bezos. The rest of us may or may not agree.
On the other side there’s the argument that sure, significant market power isn’t all that desirable, but there’s a limit to how much intervention we want to do into the economy. This is largely an R belief, or perhaps a free market one an that’s coincident with those few Rs who actually believe in free markets. So, there should be intervention into market power, monopoly, only when there’s actual – and provably so – harm to consumers. The cartel forcing up vitamin prices, as happened in the EU, kill it with fire and fine everybody billions. As was done. Someone with the bulk of a market simply because they’re very good at it for the moment, well, leave it alone.
Any discussion of market power, of monopoly, has to start with this divergence in theoretical views about it. At which point we can dismiss this report. Rather easily. For in the intro:
The effects of this significant and durable market power are costly. The Subcommittee’s series of hearings produced significant evidence that these firms wield their dominance in ways that erode entrepreneurship, degrade Americans’ privacy online, and undermine the vibrancy of the free and
diverse press. The result is less innovation, fewer choices for consumers, and a weakened democracy.
They’re not even claiming consumer harm and they’re certainly not proving its existence. That is, consumer harm as in people being charged more than a market clearing price for what they’re getting. They’ve begged the major and important question that is – so we can and should ignore them.