President Biden rejects the economics-driven antitrust policies of the past 40 years. Flanked by his White House competition adviser and his new FTC Chair in July 2021, he asserted that the “experiment failed” and promised to return to earlier antitrust traditions. This report shows those traditions were abandoned for good reason: they harmed consumers.
Two such traditions are discussed in particular detail. One involves the Robinson Patman Act of 1936, which the FTC promises to reinvigorate. The second involves what FTC Chair Khan calls the “controlling precedents” of old Supreme Court merger decisions, especially from the Warren Court. Those decisions stand in sharp contrast to the modern economic standards used to evaluate mergers, as exemplified in court decisions and in the Obama administration’s 2010 guidelines.
President Biden blamed the alleged failure on Robert Bork and the Chicago school. Blaming, or crediting, Chicago for the 40 years is inaccurate. In fact, modern antitrust analysis was much richer than any school, including Harvard professors and judges, especially Philip Areeda and Stephen Breyer, both of whom have had profound impacts.
The true “failed experiment“ was populist antitrust and its policies that the new enforcers praise.
These mistakes—Robinson-Patman, merger law based on long-abandoned populist norms, renewed attacks on low prices, hostility to bigness for its own sake—result from animus to the idea of applying economics that allow business practices that benefit consumers. Antitrust has tried populism, now resurfacing among progressives and in the Biden administration. That was the experiment that failed.
Your editorial “Nationwide Rent Control?” (Jan. 23) notes, “If there’s any consensus in economics, it’s that rent control achieves the opposite of its intended goal.” That’s true. In a 1992 poll, 93% of economists said rent control reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. Even progressive economists mostly think rent control is stupid.
As Swedish economics professor Assar Lindbeck put it, “Rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing.”
Classical liberals, especially in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, were correct to see the democratic state not as an expression of the “will of the people,” but simply as an institution that could assume some important functions that private cooperation could not efficiently fulfill.
Such side effects need to be taken seriously. But the mRNA vaccines have safety risks too, not least myocarditis, especially for young men. An FDA study this month also found an increased risk of pulmonary embolism among seniors who had received the Pfizer vaccine. After the FDA initially played down a “statistical signal” linking Pfizer’s bivalent booster to an increased risk of stroke, a CDC presentation last week revealed the risk may be real after all and appeared to be higher in seniors who had simultaneously gotten a high-dose flu shot.
Public-health authorities rushed to roll out the bivalent boosters in September despite having no clinical trial efficacy and safety data, partially because they believed uptake would be higher if seniors could get them at the same time as the flu shot. “God gave us two arms: one for the flu shot and the other one for the Covid shot,” White House Covid czar Ashish Jha quipped during a press briefing.
Don’t expect the Biden administration to acknowledge this blunder, or its mistake of promoting the mRNA vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson shot. Both errors stem from shortsighted calculations that don’t properly weigh risks against benefits. The same goes for the annual booster push.
Well, those nice folks from the government were just trying to minimize transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – an end that obviously justifies whatever means those nice folks from the government choose to use in pursuit of it. A slice:
The Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 were an unprecedented assault on liberty – not only on our freedom to go about our daily lives, but also on our freedom of expression and our freedom to dissent. Just as we were ordered to ‘stay at home’ for months on end, we were also told to stop asking questions about the draconian restrictions.
Today, a report by Big Brother Watch has revealed the alarming lengths the UK government went to in order to hush up its critics. We now know that three government bodies, including a shady Ministry of Defence unit tasked with fighting ‘information warfare’, surveilled and monitored UK citizens, public figures and media outlets who criticised the lockdown – and spiked was caught up in that net.
People who believe in a flat earth do no harm to others by their false belief. People who believe in zero-covid, on the other hand, did so much harm…