What a difference a decade makes! Ten years ago, everyone loved big tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. They were bringing low, low prices and vast selection to consumers, allowing us to connect and build community in new and powerful ways, and helping the least-powerful among us speak up against power and even start revolutions.
Nowadays, those same corporations are favorite targets of politicians all across the political spectrum. Congress demands their executives testify before the House and Senate, President Donald Trump rarely goes a day without inveighing against tech giants for allegedly screwing with his popularity and reelection chances, and Democratic presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren have promised to break up companies they say have too much cultural, economic, and political power.
Lurking behind the new attacks on big tech is a novel interpretation of antitrust law known as “hipster antitrust” because it’s being touted by a new, younger generation of legal scholars. Law professors such as Lina Khan and Tim Wu are inspired by Louis Brandeis (1856-1941), the Harvard Law professor and Supreme Court justice who warned against “the curse of bigness” and defended small, local firms against national behemoths like Standard Oil and A&P.
In the cover story for the October 2019 issue of Reason, Clemson economist Thomas W. Hazlett delves into the ideas and analysis of hipster antitrust and the new push to break up the tech giants. He says that the hipster antitrusters, Warren, and Trump have got it almost all exactly wrong and that companies such as Amazon actually are massively benefiting consumers. On today’s Reason podcast, Hazlett tells Nick Gillespie about the checkered history of past antitrust actions and what proponents of hipster antitrust get wrong about today’s (and tomorrow’s) tech sector. Hazlett’s story is currently available only to subscribers of Reason magazine. Subscribe now for as little as $14.97 and then read the story here.
Audio production by Ian Keyser.