My Monopolies

The Paradox of Antitrust Choice

Kids coming up today are lucky. They have so many monopolies to choose from.

Tech is not special

I’m going to focus on that last link, from Ben Thompson. He makes a throwaway comment:

The “consumer welfare” standard is not the law

Ben is right that US antitrust law focuses on consumer welfare. That’s pretty much the work of one person: Robert Bork. His book, The Antitrust Paradox, successfully rewrote the history of American antitrust enforcement. Gone were concerns about competitive markets, or any discussions of the downsides of market power. Nope. If prices are low, it’s good. That’s it.

Revisiting Consumer Welfare

Bork successfully reframed the downsides of market power, with a lot of help from the Chicago School of Law. But there have always been people fighting back.

The Tech Monopoly Minefield

Every tech founder I know builds their business around the reality of these monopolies. If you’re in e-commerce, your business is defined by the space Amazon leaves you. You don’t necessarily have to be on Amazon, but prepare to be attacked if you’re not. If you’re in social, you have to ensure Facebook doesn’t want your business. If you make apps, you can only make or sell them the way Apple lets you.

Conclusion

I’m still haunted by that AT&T phone we didn’t own.

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Luke Kanies

Luke Kanies

Founder, adviser, and strategist. Writing at lukekanies.com and second-publishing here.