Friday, November 23, 2018

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Should Trump Bust up Tech Monopolies?

The question, "Should a conservative even entertain the idea of being anti-business?"

Perhaps it depends, especially when it comes to the juggernaut that has become modern day technology companies. Glenn Reynolds writes.

I’ve just finished reading Columbia Law professor Tim Wu’s new book on antitrust, "The Curse of Bigness," and my biggest takeaway is that President Donald Trump has an opportunity to follow in former President Teddy Roosevelt’s footsteps.

Roosevelt built a strong reputation by going after the trusts, huge combinations that placed control of entire industries in the hands of one or a few men. He broke up John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, the Google of its day. He shut down J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Co., which would have monopolized rail transportation in much of the United States. And he pursued numerous other cases (45 in all) that broke up monopolies and returned competition to markets.

Roosevelt operated against a Gilded Age background in which a few companies had, by means both fair and foul, eliminated virtually all competition. This was bad for consumers, as it drove prices up. It was also, surprisingly, bad for shareholders: Wu notes that Standard Oil’s value actually increased post-breakup, as it went from inefficient monopoly to a collection of competitive companies. Most of all, it was bad for American society.

It's an interesting question, but then the size and spread of tech companies far outweigh that of Standard Oil of the time. Oil was used, but not did not infiltrate the lives of people that Amazon, Facebook, and other tech giants do now.

In any case does the Trump administration risk a potential hit to the economy? A look at the crashing of tech stocks in October of this year shows it's volatility. Technology is still a relatively young commodity. Twenty years ago, no one saw the beginning of Amazon - basically a computer driven mail-order company - would rise to the monster it is today, nor the rise of basically a college chat program grow into a system where billions of people connect to one another.

Yet it may force itself to be regulated and broken up especially taken the controversies it's become embroidered with, privacy and political advocacy.

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