Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
William Barr’s attempt to justify the antitrust persecution of Google fails (“The Antitrust Case Against Google Was a Republican Project,” October 25). First of all, the fact that the case was launched by a Republican administration and supported by several GOP attorneys general is irrelevant; Republicans are often as prone as are Democrats to pander to firms who welcome the government’s help in hamstringing remarkably successful rivals.
Second, Mr. Barr makes much of the fact that Google pays equipment manufacturers to choose Google as the default search engine. He simply assumes that there can be no reason for such payments other than Google’s thirst for monopoly power. But how can Mr. Barr know such a thing? Perhaps such payments elicit from equipment manufacturers better quality control. Or maybe these payments enable Google to take advantage of economies of scale. I don’t know and nor does Mr. Barr. An economist’s or a lawyer’s inability to imagine that a commercial practice serves any function other than monopolization is a faulty basis for classifying that commercial practice as monopolistic.
Evidence that these payments cause no great harm to consumers is inadvertently provided by Mr. Barr himself when he writes about Google’s search-engine default status that “users rarely change it.” Surely if consumers were suffering enough harm to justify a costly antitrust suit against Google, they would flee Google in droves by choosing alternative search engines. For kicks, I just now changed my default search engine to DuckDuckGo; it took me 45 seconds – a process, ironically, made easier by using Google to search “How do I change my search engine?”
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030