Over at TheAtlantic.com, Justin Fox offers thoughts on how antitrust policy will impact social media companies going forward. The article is worthwhile reading, in part for what it reveals about the smug sense of entitlement policymakers exhibit when it comes to America’s most successful companies.
“The Web’s New Monopolists” floats a number of trial balloons, including:
- The desirability of regulating companies like Twitter and Facebook as “utilities”
- Whether Internet giants such as these, not to mention Apple, Amazon, and Google, should be seen as “scary monopolies that somebody needs to do something about”
- Whether a company like Facebook should be nationalized
- Whether “it’s possible to spin a credible tale of antitrust lawyers enabling disruption and innovation” through enforcement measures such as those against Microsoft in the 1990s.
What’s on display here is the idea that the more success a company earns, the more it must put up with coercive control over its business practices. Fox’s conclusion says it all:
So all praise to today’s would-be utilities and monopolies, as they try to build enterprises that own their markets and that we can’t do without. But when they actually succeed, don’t think we shouldn’t be sniffing around in their business. At a certain point, it becomes our business, too.
Unfortunately, the businessmen subjected to antitrust enforcement typically accept it as a cost of doing business. “There’s a joke in Silicon Valley,” says UC Berkeley economist Carl Shaprio. “‘You know you’ve really made it when you’ve got antitrust problems.’ That’s the sign of success.”
(This is cross-posted from Voices for Reason.)