Facebook and Big Tech are monopsonies, even when they're not monopolies

    Big Tech is often in a monopoly situation (for example, Amazon's Audible owns something like 90% of the audiobook market), but even where they aren't monopolies, they are often monopsonies: a single buyer that controls the whole market that a variety of sellers want to sell into. Read the rest

    One company bought all the retail outlets for glasses, used that to force sales of all the eyewear companies and jacked up prices by as much as 1000%

    If you wear glasses, you might have noticed that they've been getting steadily more expensive in recent years, no matter which brand you buy and no matter where you shop. Read the rest

    Elizabeth Warren reveals her plan to break up Big Tech

    Would-be Democratic Presidential nominee Elizabeth Warren (I've donated to her campaign, as well as Bernie Sanders') has published her latest policy prescription: a plan to break up Big Tech monopolists to protect the public's privacy and the interests of small-business competitors. Read the rest

    Amazon just bought mesh wifi company Eero. Oh, great.

    We have an Eero system in our house; it does really good and reliable wifi distribution, including to my office in the garage. And it was nice to have a piece of home electronics that was neither from one of the great data-sucking companies like Google, nor from the control-freak companies like Apple -- and also not from a no-name white-label re-badger or a giant shitty telco switch company whose consumer products arm is an afterthought. Read the rest

    The Curse of Bigness: Tim Wu channels Brandeis on Big Tech (and Big Everything Else)

    Tim Wu (previously) is best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality" but the way he got there was through antitrust and competition scholarship: in his latest book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Wu takes a sprightly-yet-maddening tour through the history of competition policy in the USA, which has its origins in curbing the near-limitless power of the robber barons in the name of creating a pluralistic, open society where anyone could participate, only to have this vision perverted by extremists from the Chicago School, who sold (with the help of wealthy backers) a wholly fictional version of what Congress intended with its antitrust rules. According to Chicago's version of things, the only thing antitrust should concern itself with is the highly technical and speculative question of "consumer harm" (in the form of higher prices) and not competition itself. Read the rest

    The Myth of Capitalism: an ardent capitalist decries monopoly

    Naked Capitalism's John Siman reviews Joanthan Tepper and Denise Hearn's The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition, in which Tepper (who does research that is sold to asset managers) condemns capitalism's current state while rejecting Thomas Piketty (who says that capitalism inevitably elevates the already-rich, not the people who create wealth by doing useful things) and Karl Marx. Read the rest

    Privatized energy utilities are burning down their states, but antitrust can make them stop

    Pacific Gas and Electric has gone from Wall Street darling to bankruptcy, thanks to the $30 billion in liability from the fires that were started in California by its power-lines. Read the rest

    Trustbusting is now a bipartisan issue

    Ronald Reagan may be sainted by the right, but 2018 was the year conservatives broke with his slavish, simpleminded adherence to the Chicago School antitrust theory that says that governments should only regulate monopolies when they give rise to higher consumer prices -- it's also the year the right realized that extreme market concentration in the tech sector could lead to a future in which conspiracy theorists, Nazis, "white identity enthusiasts," and crank misogynists might find themselves with nowhere to talk and be heard by others. Read the rest

    Missouri's latest senator is part of a wave of (extremely selective) Republican enthusiasm for trustbusting

    When Josh Hawley was Attorney General of Missouri, he was an (extremely selective) firebreathing trustbuster who used his office to chase Google up and down the state, investigating the company's anticompetitive action and the pontential for public harm represented by its market dominance and size. Read the rest

    Analyst: Apple's poor earnings will recover now they've switched from innovating to rent-seeking

    Apple just had a really poor Q3 earnings report, with hardware sales falling off as people figure out that they just don't need to get a new phone every year or so; writing in Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky tries to soothe investors by pointing out that Apple is still seeing growth in "services" and that there's plenty more growth to be realized there. Read the rest

    All the economists who told the FTC we shouldn't break up Big Tech are paid by Big Tech

    From the Open Markets Institute's Mat Stoller and Austin Frederick, who analyzed the FTC's panel, "The Current Economic Understanding of Multi-Sided Platforms," in which economic experts told the regulator that Big Tech's monopoly power just isn't a problem: "every single economist testifying on the issue of corporate concentration derived income, directly or indirectly, from large corporations. Beyond that, the hearing itself was held at the Antonin Scalia Law School, which is financed by Google and Amazon." Read the rest

    New Sanders bill: If a bank is too big to fail, it's too big to exist

    In 2008, the Bush and Obama administrations both argued that they had a duty to transfer more than $700,000,000,000 of American taxpayers' money to the largest banks in the country, because these banks were "too big to fail" and allowing them to collapse would do much more harm than a mere $0.7 trillion subsidy. Read the rest

    Big Tech is losing the public's trust in just the same way that Big Finance has

    Writing in the New York Times, Nathaniel Popper notes a new current running through our discourse: the idea that Big Tech is not to be trusted, and should be broken up. Read the rest

    Tim "Net Neutrality" Wu on the case for breaking up Facebook

    Competition scholar and cyberlawyer Tim Wu (previously) is best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality," but his work ranges over all sorts of issues related to technology, competition, monopoly and innovation; in his forthcoming book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, he makes the case for breaking up the tech giants, starting with Facebook -- because the problem with Big Tech isn't "tech," it's "big." Read the rest

    The emerging split in modern trustbusting: Alexander Hamilton's Fully Automated Luxury Communism vs Thomas Jefferson's Redecentralization

    From the late 1970s on, the Chicago School economists worked with the likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Augusto Pinochet and Brian Mulroney to dismantle antitrust enforcement, declaring that the only time government should intervene is when monopolists conspired to raise prices -- everything else was fair game. Read the rest

    Thinking through the "What should we do about Facebook?" question

    There is, at long last, a public appetite for Doing Something About Facebook (and, by extension, about all of Big Tech); I have been playing with the idea of regulating the outcome, rather than the method: we give Facebook a certain period of time to remedy the situation whereby people "can't afford to leave Facebook" and then, if that situation isn't remedied, impose some sanction and either break them up or give them another go, with more sanctions if they fail. Read the rest

    The problem isn't that Facebook is creepy, it's that it's creepy AND HUGE

    Writing in Wired, Rep David N. Cicilline [D-RI], the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee; and Terrell McSweeny, outgoing Democratic commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission write about the real problem with Facebook: it's a creepy, surveillant company that's also really, really big. Read the rest

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