Antitrust Bombshells in the Fine Print: Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy

It’s a bombshell, because it links antitrust to concerns beyond ensuring that prices stay low.

By Cory Doctorow, Electronic Frontier Foundation:

President Biden’s July 9 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy is a highly technical, 72-part, fine-grained memo on how to address the ways market concentration harms our lives as workers, citizens, consumers, and beyond.

To a casual reader, this may seem like a dry bit of industrial policy, but woven into the new order is a revolutionary idea that has rocked the antitrust world to its very foundations.

The Paradox of Antitrust

US antitrust law has three pillars: the Sherman Act (1890), the Clayton Act (1914), and the FTC Act (1914). Beyond their legal text, these laws have a rich context, including the transcripts of the debates that the bills’ sponsors participated in, explaining why the bills were written. They arose as a response to the industrial conglomerates of the Gilded Age, and their “robber baron” leaders, whose control over huge segments of the economy gave them a frightening amount of power.

Despite this clarity of intent, the True Purpose of Antitrust has been hotly contested in US history. For much of that history, including the seminal breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in 1911, the ruling antitrust theory was “harmful dominance.” That’s the idea that companies that dominate an industry are potentially dangerous merely because they are dominant. With dominance comes the ability to impose corporate will on workers, suppliers, other industries, people who live near factories, even politicians and regulators.

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 saw the rise of a new antitrust theory, based on “consumer welfare.” Consumer welfare advocates argue that monopolies can be efficient, able to deliver better products at lower prices to consumers, and therefore the government does us all a disservice when it indiscriminately takes on monopolies.

Consumer welfare’s standard-bearer was Judge Robert Bork, who served as Solicitor General in the Nixon administration. Bork was part of the conservative Chicago School of economics, and wrote a seminal work called “The Antitrust Paradox.”

The Antitrust Paradox went beyond arguing that consumer welfare was a better way to do antitrust than harmful dominance. In his book, Bork offers a kind of secret history of American antitrust, arguing that consumer welfare had always been the intention of America’s antitrust laws, and that we’d all been misled by the text of these laws, the debates surrounding their passage, and other obvious ways of interpreting Congress’s intent.

Bork argued the true goal of antitrust was protecting us as consumers—not as citizens, or workers, or human beings. As consumers, we want better goods and lower prices. So long as a company used its market power to make better products at lower prices, Bork’s theories insisted that the government should butt out.

This is the theory that prevailed for the ensuing 40 years. It spread from economic circles to the government to the judiciary. It got a tailwind thanks to a well-funded campaign that included a hugely successful series of summer seminars attended by 40 percent of federal judges, whose rulings were measurably impacted by the program.

Morning in America

Everyone likes lower prices and better products, but all of us also have interests beyond narrow consumer issues. We live our days as parents, spouses, friends—not just as shoppers. We are workers, or small business owners. We care about our environment and about justice and equity. We want a say in how our world works.

Competition matters, but not just because it can make prices lower or products better. Competition matters because it lets us exercise self-determination. Market concentration means that choices about our culture, our built environment, our workplaces, and our climate are gathered into ever-fewer hands. Businesses with billions of users and dollars get to make unilateral decisions about our lives. The larger a business looms in our life, the more ways it can hurt us.

The idea that our governments need to regulate companies beyond the narrow confines of “consumer welfare” never died, and now, 40 years on, it’s coming roaring back.

The FTC’s new chair, Lina Khan, burst upon the antitrust scene in 2017, when, as a Yale Law student, she published Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox, a devastating rebuke to Bork’s Antitrust Paradox, demonstrating how a focus on consumer welfare fails to deliver, even on its own terms. Khan is now one of the nation’s leading antitrust enforcers, along with fellow “consumer welfare” skeptics like Jonathan Kanter (now helming the Department of Justice Antitrust Division) and Tim Wu (the White House’s special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy).

Bombshells in the Fine Print

The Biden antitrust order is full of fine detail; it’s clear that the president’s advisors dug deep into competition issues with public interest groups across a wide variety of subjects. We love to nerd out on esoteric points of competition law as much as the next person, and we like a lot of what this memo says about tech and competition, but even more exciting is the big picture stuff.

When the memo charges the FTC with policing corporate concentration to prevent abuses to “consumer autonomy and consumer privacy,” that’s not just a reassurance that this administration is paying attention to some of our top priorities. It’s a bombshell, because it links antitrust to concerns beyond ensuring that prices stay low.

Decades of consumer welfarism turned the electronic frontier into a monoculture. This isn’t the internet we signed up for. That’s finally changing.

We get it, this is esoteric, technical stuff. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in 30 years’ fighting for a better digital future, it’s that all the important stuff starts out as dull, technical esoterica. From DRM to digital privacy, bossware to broadband, our issues too often rise to the level of broad concern once they’ve grown so harmful that everyone has to pay attention to them.

We are living through a profound shift in the framework that determines what kinds of companies are allowed to exist and what they’re allowed to do. It’s a shift for the better. We know nothing is assured. The future won’t fix itself. But this is an opportunity, and we’re delighted to seize it. By Cory Doctorow, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? Using ad blockers – I totally get why – but want to support the site? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

Many experts agree that metal roofs are a great defense against wildfires. Click here or call 1-800-543-8938 for details from our sponsor, the Classic Metal Roofing folks.

Classic Metal Roofing Systems, the leader in fire safe roofing for residential applications, manufactures products that are 1/20 the weight of most tile products and eligible for Class A, B, or C fire ratings as determined by roof preparation.

  225 comments for “Antitrust Bombshells in the Fine Print: Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy

  1. Javert Chip says:

    1) there needs to be a hell of a lot more meat on the bone than provided in this summary (almost none) before any reasonable reader could begin to make heads or tails of this topic.

    2) I am really sick to death of ANY article using the word “BOMBSHELL”.

    • curiouscat says:

      I’m sure the 72 page document is on line somewhere. Have at it!

      • Wolf Richter says:

        It’s the first link in the article. All you have to do is click on it.

        It’s “72 part” not “72 page.” This is an html version, so it doesn’t have pages. I pasted it into Word, where it has 17 pages and 6,800 words.

        • JGarbo says:

          You mean I have to click? What next, read it?!
          Wait! You mean we’re not just monkeys at a zoo, fed cheap bananas, get our cage cleaned once a month? You mean there’s more to life than eating?
          Seriously, Wolf, good news if it pans out. But isn’t Joe betraying his owners?
          I predict “coitus interruptus”.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          You do have to click on it, but, you can have your device read it out loud to you. Be careful though, if you use Google, they have been caught changing translations in Google translate in order to suit their interests and appease the CCP. Only a matter of time, before Google offers a text to speech service that sums stuff up and changes the meaning.

    • PeterChicago says:

      Was waiting for examples. Didn’t get any.

      • EXXON ruining the climate is an example of “harmful dominance.” It proves Bork wrong.
        Need more examples, Pete? There are plenty.

        • Keith Matthews says:

          Exxon signing us up for the facist business government marxist green agenda is harmful dominance.

        • NBay says:

          Don’t worry, Exxon is just lying. PR, ya know….cheap words.

      • JoeC says:

        Maybe follow the links? I know it is Monday, but the readers here aren’t typically so lazy!

      • NBay says:

        So it was all therefore meaningless, eh?

        Another form of obfuscation…..you are just copying Chip’s pathetic refuting of a good article.

    • Olivier says:

      Matt Stoller provided a more detailed analysis as well as a dose of skepticism in one of his recent BIG postings.

      • cb says:

        I am happy to see Matt Stoller mentioned. He has done a great job reporting on the damage of monopoly and oligopoly.

        Concentrated Wealth and Power is the bane of free markets. And is ruinous to a free society.

        • Paulo says:

          Oh, does it include Citizens United and the corporate consolidation of Govt?

          Hypocrisy if it doesn’t.

        • georgist says:

          I will read this, thanks. Stroller is the best person I’m aware of who could give me the full picture on this topic.

        • KMOUT says:

          Citizens United was a perfectly valid case.
          If 90% of the media (READ Corporations) and government unions was well as private sector unions are free to bombard us with slanted articles and openly hostile op Ed’s against the Corporations position which they -JUST LIKE THE MAJORITY HARD KEFT MEDIA DOES -have the 1st amendment right to express, I don’t have a problem with allowing everybody the right to express.
          Look at us now.
          Three or four hard left CEO’s have the power to control the whole information source.
          The monstrous Warlord of the taliban is permitted to freely express himself while the President of our country was silenced 2 weeks before a presidential election.
          Citizens United is an irrelevant joke compare to what’s going on now.

        • NBay says:

          Look, KMOUT,
          CEOs are NOT “innately” political, or left and right….they buy whoever makes more MONEY for them. And dynastic families will buy whoever they have to to KEEP their MONEY.

          It’s rather simple….along with a good dose of wannabe rich…….

          and they want it SOON!

          It’s why I like a Constitutional Net Wealth Maximum….you know, boundaries to the playing field, along with rules and refs.

          Still haven’t decided on $10M or 15M MAX..bounty hunter style IRS gets rest…(well regulated also)…will let you know when I have, deal?

      • Olivier says:

        To be clear, MS agrees that this is an epochal change; just the appointment of Lina Khan and the way she sailed through her Senate confirmation hearing is huge. This is very bi-partisan. He does have doubts about some of the wording of the EO.

        Burt then overthrowing 40 years of precedent was never going to be an instant job. If the political will to stay the course is there, there’ll be time to fine-tune.

      • intosh says:

        +1 for Matt Stoller.

        This reminds me: I need to catch up with his latest re: big pharma mocks Biden by raising vaccine prices.

        • NBay says:

          Kaiser Health News has a lot of good writers. Funded by the Kaiser family, who were just into steel and making things with it…and maybe a bit ashamed of their part in starting private “managed health care”, too.
          Will check out this Stoller guy.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Javert Chip,

      I deal with Google on a daily basis. They dominate everything about internet advertising, including the various platforms and systems (ad-tech) that these ads run on. Even though I now use ad agencies rather than Google most of the time, their ads are still running on the Google platforms which place them on my site. I cannot get away from Google. No one can. That’s a monopoly.

      Back in March 2020, when I was still using more Google, its earnings came under pressure, and it decided to cut out over half of my earnings due to what it claimed were “invalid clicks,” month after month, and other publishers had the same problem. Whereupon Google’s earnings jumped.

      Google is now being sued over this and other issues, and News Corp has lined up against Google.

      Google is single-handedly responsible for killing countless publishers.

      That company needs to be broken up, and its decision makers need to be indicted, convicted, and sent to the hoosegow.

      But you see, none of this was an antitrust issue before because it didn’t cause consumer products to get more expensive because Google isn’t selling any consumer products. Given the antitrust interpretation until now, it would have been nearly impossible to even go after Google.

      Trump already started down that road, but too chaotically and ineffectually. Biden is now taking what Trump started to the next level. In China, they’re already fully cracking down on these companies.

      So yes, this small print is a bombshell because it changes the equation and finally allows antitrust lawyers to go after Google for what it is doing to publishers.

      What this piece does is it gives you to understand why Google was difficult or impossible to pursue on antitrust grounds before, and why Google (and other companies) are now facing serious legal problems on antitrust grounds in the US.

      • cb says:

        Good to know that Trump started down the antitrust improvement road. I thought he missed, botched or slept through that very important need.

        • Augustus Frost says:

          I infer it’s because he doesn’t like these companies, not because of economic concentration. I don’t believe he sees that as a problem. Primarily if not entirely vindictive.

        • NBay says:

          YEP.

          Much thanks to all the many unknowns who helped keep him pretty much in his playpen or out holding his fun “rallies”.

          But unfortunately almost half the country voted to have this creature as prez again…and that IS scary.

      • Javert Chip says:

        Wolf

        In case anybody misunderstood my post, I am STRONGLY in favor of anti-trust legislation & enforcement.

        110 years ago Standard Oil fell to Federal antitrust laws. We need new digital antitrust definitions and enforcements for the current era.

        Problem is, Google, et al, make huge “political contributions” funded by their monopoly profits.

        Almost no informed observers are standing around wondering if Google, et al, are monopolies; the only difficult in pursuing (ie: breaking up) digital monopolies is due to their “political contributions”.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          We need to do more to expose the corporate contributions made to various politicians … then watch their popular support evaporate.

          A good start would be for media, when mentioning a politician, to not only mention their party and state (e.g. D-CA) but also, say, their top 3 donors. (e.g. D-CA, Google, Chevron, Black-rock)

          Often takes a bit of hunting to extract the real donating interests from the cloud of obfuscating shell organizations, but it can be done.

        • polecat says:

          These behemoths, for all intent and purpose, ARE the Government .. calling the shots as they BAN Anyone not to their um,’like’ing’!!! Many of the top heads of these corps need to be imprisoned for what they’ve done to our society as a result of their mendacity gift. Of course, many in CONGRESS would have to follow suit, where purple is the new jail attire.

        • polecat says:

          ‘mendacious grift’.

          “SPELLCHECK” …. what • an • joke

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          Javert Chip,

          It’s widely been established that all the needed anti trust laws already exist, the problem is that the courts, congress, and the rest of the government; refuses to enforce them. I am very suspicious of any new industry regulations, which are normally written by lobbyists, by the big players in that industry.

          Forcing the government to enforce existing laws and not making new ones is the key to success.

          Informing the masses helps reach that point, however, right now, too many people in America, will viciously defend the status quo for everything, because they are comfortable with it.

        • Bill says:

          Chip, I thought your original criticism of the author’s article was correct. Wolfe’s short post told me more about the executive order than the entire article. The article obviously confused many of the readers, based their replies referencing vaccine and petroleum companies.

      • georgist says:

        And as if all you list against google isn’t enough, their search results are garbage!

        Nothing to lose, only upside. Break it up.

        • MarMar says:

          lol I guess you weren’t around for Alta Vista

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          @MarMar: Alta Vista was bad but at least it was honest. Google’s algo was a big step up 20 years ago, but lately they’ve overfiltered it with politically driven censorship. Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right; no monopoly should be allowed to curtail that.

        • Thomas Roberts says:

          Google is actively tampering with their search results, to achieve political agendas.

          Real men use DuckDuckGo and Firefox.

          Brave browser is okay, but it’s one of those things that will probably get bought out at some point and turn evil.

        • georgist says:

          I have used pre-google, and I remember when google became popular. It was amazing. You could *find* stuff on the web.

          But what we have now is not the same google. Search results are largely spam or one of a top few. It’s impossible to discover smaller sites.

      • Ted says:

        Isnt that what the lawyers call “ExPost Facto”, changing the rules after the fact??

        • Wolf Richter says:

          No. The rules aren’t being changed. They’re the same (the law). What has changed is the trigger for applying these existing rules.

      • kam says:

        Google is also the behind the scenes provider of other email services. I dropped my email account of 30 years when they switched to Google.
        Google also controls much of the internet’s feeds.
        Not just a Monopoly, but a disgusting monopoly.

      • KMOUT says:

        China cracking down on these companies?
        Now that Google designed the firewall for human surveillance of their entire population they are ready to get butch with Google?
        Jeez Wolf, China is just pissed that they aren’t the monopoly.

      • Steve says:

        I’m not nearly as concerned with cheap goods. I’m furious that 4+ companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. Could throw in Disney too ) have a virtual lock on what information people get to read or what movies they get to watch.

        THIS is the anti-trust of the 21st century. Personally not that affected as I don’t use Google, to the extent possible, Facebook, Disney and limit Amazon and Apple exposure.)

        And until they actually start breaking these companies up, it’s just more BS talk.

        • KMOUT says:

          And citizens United was supposed to be dangerous….
          About like a popcorn fart in a movie theater.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Yes, there are many aspects to this. I’m directly involved in only one small aspect of it. When you have that kind of concentration of power and capital, the arms of that giant squid are everywhere.

    • Old School says:

      I am a little dubious of anything that comes out of DC. Our public corporation purchased a company that was part of another public corporation. Our company management leaned R. The purchased was green lighted during a R administration in DC.

      When D took over White House the purchase was challenged. The next 18 months was spent paying DC attorneys to plead our case. Most likely millions spent and finally they were satisfied and nothing changed about the purchase. It was more of a DC attorney employment act and mafia shakedown imho.

    • Brendan says:

      When did this blog become the source for targeted and specific legislative nuance? It’s a blog, not the library of Congress. My initial read of this excited me because it whet my appetite to go look for more detail on my own. I think this is a well written post with just enough “meat” to prompt more questions. Those who count on an internet article to be a replacement for thorough research might be lazy.

      • Javert Chip says:

        Brendan:

        Agreed: this blog is not the library of Congress.

        A couple analytical statements:

        1) Google + Company A + Company B had 90+% internet advertising in 2020

        2) Google + Company A + Company B internet advertising market share has increased every year for the past 10 years

        would go a long way to explaining how concentrated the internet advertising market has become.

        I probably read 100-150 internet articles a day, and I look for something substantive to grab my attention to research further.

        The following quote from the article is a perfect example of meaningless word salad:

        ‘…When the memo charges the FTC with policing corporate concentration to prevent abuses to “consumer autonomy and consumer privacy,” that’s not just a reassurance that this administration is paying attention to some of our top priorities. It’s a bombshell, because it links antitrust to concerns beyond ensuring that prices stay low…”.

    • dr. mike says:

      touché,, glibness is not intelligence

    • Cambric Finish says:

      The entire executive order is an anathema to the “free market” Chicago school, popularized by Milton Friedman and captured by Ronald Reagan’s famous line, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”. The “free market” infallibility ideology can’t be right if government must sometimes intervene with “successful companies” to keep Capitalism and democracy viable. There are strong narratives for restoring anti-trust interpretations to their original intent (pre-Bork); here is one such narrative from the American Conservative:
      “Whereas prior generations of lawmakers protected the American citizenry as businessmen, entrepreneurs, and growers, Bork led a revolution that sacrificed the small producer at the altar of efficiency and cheap goods. With the publication of The Antitrust Paradox 40 years ago, the American citizen was, in a very real sense, reduced to a mere consumer.”
      https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/robert-borks-america/
      If the above narrative resonates, it does for me, it is worth a try to begin to ratchet back on Corporate profits and power. Joe Biden has unlocked a door previously locked tight but the door cannot be opened unless enough democrats, republicans and independents demand the change through voice and vote. I don’t have any problem calling this a BOMBSHELL.

      • NBay says:

        Excellent post Cambric….totally excellent and exactly on topic.
        Thank you very much!

    • c1ue says:

      I rarely agree with Javert, but I do in this case.
      A working paper is talk – antitrust is about action in the face of entrenched and moneyed interests.
      Biden has a very poor history in this regard – the Senator from MBNA’s career exists due to entrenched and moneyed interests.

    • Implicit says:

      Cory Doctorow is awesome, and one of my favorite authors.
      He undresses the spying and illegal imvasion of privacy that goes on by those in the nsa, cia and other secret gov. agencies with acronyms in his fiction novels and short stories.
      Also teaches you a few things with his computer dexterity at the same time. He is a modern day tech. savy fighter for freedom

    • NBay says:

      A DAMNED excellent article!

      It sure instantly drew an “economy of size” and Reganomics/Milty/Chicago School believer, and obviously an obfuscater, lacking any incisive retort whatsoever, because there is none*. (and corporate economics “big winner”; how did your M-8 do at the local track, or were you too embarrassed to go get a time ticket?) out of the woodwork FAST, and that alone proves a lot!

      I just hope it isn’t too late to undo all the crapp Lincoln saw coming and Teddy and FDR tried to trash.

      The Gilded Age was totally MISERABLE for all but a few, and we are almost right back in it, AND with the VERY advanced DESTRUCTION of the planet, (for hominids, at least), just so people can buy lots of needless things “cheaper” and a few get richer.

      Making an adjective a “point” in your disagreement (2) is pretty stupid…or possibly senile?

      How about ” Hundreds of Blonde bombshells now walking through GG Park totally naked?”, Chip?
      Har-Har!

      Again, great article, says an awful lot in few words.

  2. MonkeyBusiness says:

    In practice, we get things like this: “The lead economics expert in the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust suit against Facebook has parted ways with the agency, two individuals familiar with the case said — adding yet another impediment to the regulator’s largest court fight.”

    Same with Climate change. From Bloomberg: “President Joe Biden has pledged to wean the U.S. off of fossil fuels, and never has that call been more urgent than now, with United Nations-backed scientists warning of a point of no return.

    And yet, the Biden administration Wednesday called on Saudi Arabia and its allies to unleash more crude onto global markets, stressing the importance of “affordable energy.””

    It’s all a bunch of BS. Wake me up when Google has lost 75% of its stock market value because of anti trust. I’ll happily eat my hat then.

    • Trailer Trash says:

      One needs to read only a few judicial decisions to conclude that decisions are frequently based on political expediency. A good place to start is the Supreme Court decision that justified arresting US citizens and placing them in concentration camps during WWII.

      Basically the court ruled that since the Army is in charge of prosecuting the war, we have to trust their judgement and do whatever the Army says. (Korematsu v. United States)

      The decision is an interesting admission that ultimately it is always the men with guns that really run nation states. Sometimes the military lets civilians think they are in charge, until some nitwit president decides that nuclear war would be a good idea.

      “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” (Mao Zedong)

      • drifterprof says:

        TT: Your post reminded me of a paragraph I had recently (Engdahl, Gods of Money, pp. 106-107, Kindle Edition):

        “US Supreme Court added to the wealth disparity in 1923 with its decision in Adkins vs. Children’s Hospital, in which it ruled that minimum wage laws were unconstitutional. ‘The rich got richer and the poor got poorer,” said a popular Tin Pan Alley song of the 1920s titled, sardonically, Ain’t We Got Fun.’

    • sunny129 says:

      @ MonkeyBusiness

      Our Economic model for growth and more job, at PRESENT is predominantly dependant upon the CONSUMPTION based Economy where fossil fuels played an important role.
      GREEN Economy (ESG) is at the other end. Unless the current model is ‘drastically’ changed into ‘ sustainable/re-cycling/ economy, GREEN revolution is a delusion.

      Right now EV comprise around 3%.of vehicles on the road. Energy demand still dependant fossil fuels in the short and intermediate term. Without it Economy will head for recession, hence the change of tune from Biden. Reality we cannot afford to wean away from fossil fuels and our green energry alternatives are way behind.
      REALITY bites!

      Did any one saw the rise of coal price b/c of demand in Europe!?
      blumy
      /2021-06-15/gas-is-so-scarce-in-europe-that-coal-is-making-a-comeback

    • James says:

      So funny that rely on google for your climate change indoctrination, but then call them bad. You never read about all the problems or observations that disprove the hypothesis of CO2’s dramatic effect on climate.

      • NBay says:

        Try NOAA. But it’s a real scary read, unless you are just waiting around for the rapture…..probably gleefully.

  3. Wisdom Seeker says:

    This sounds like a long-overdue return to the true intent of antitrust!
    The economy and government cannot function properly when there are too many monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies.

    Restoring honest competition could become a major positive legacy of the current administration.

    But there will have to be actual action taken, not just more words.

    • Raging Texan says:

      “The Biden antitrust order is full of fine detail; it’s clear that the president’s advisors dug deep into competition issues with public interest groups across a wide variety of subjects.”

      Ya wow sounds like Biden’s people are working really hard and are super sincere! Writing an order is super meaningful and important you know. I’m sure we’ll have some huge meaningful changes in the various markets in the next few months to boost the prospects of small businesses! I’m sure the fascist owners of these megacorps are just terrified! I’m sure the first thing they will do is stop approving and even reversing the torrent of corporate mergers that has going on for a couple of decades! And I’m sure if they are doing this they will also take steps to protect American consumers from monopolistic nations like China! I bet they’ll also delete the insane regulations these megacorps lobby for that small businesses have no resources to comply with! Yeah, they are super serious about this!

      I guess I was all worng about Biden, he truly is on the side of the little guy.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Raging Texan,

        It’s funny, someone is finally trying to do something about this issue, and then he gets casually pooh-poohed.

        China runs a dictatorship. They can do whatever they want. And they’re doing it. That doesn’t fly in the US.

        So it’s either Congress or it’s an Executive Order. And that’s what we have now. And given that Trump started out on this track, and Republicans are also frustrated with big tech, it looks like the political winds changed on big tech.

        Antitrust action takes many years to play out in the US. If you want instant gratification, go to China.

        • Gerry says:

          Under the Reagan administration, the most corrupt administration since Woodrow Wilson allowed the Federal Resrve Act to pass, everything bad for the country got imposed via Reagan appointees. John Shad at the SEC allowed share buyback via rule 10b-18, which ended the almost 50 year-old SEC policy at the SEC classifying buybacks as market maniplation (which they are). On Reagan’s first full day in office, he blocked the FDA from outlawing aspartame as an artificial food sweetener. Aspartame’s manufacturer, G.D. Searle, had Donald Rumsfeld as its CEO. As for protecting Americans in general, at the same time Reagan’s appointees were pushing for taxation on Social Security benefits and making deals with druglords to smuggle cocaine into the USA, inflation was raging in 1982 at levels higher than any year under Carter. Reagan’s laissez-faire policy on shutting down private industry pension plans started the ball rolling for the end of defined pension plans. All these changes took place within 5 years or less. And the “Uni-Party” Democrats rubberstamped all these massive changes.

        • Tom says:

          Great article on an interesting turn of events. Sometimes big changes start by eroding the details. Al Capone went Alcatraz for tax evasion. Thanks again Wolf for bringing us these insights.

        • MonkeyBusiness says:

          Wolf, the issue here is credibility. The Prez came from the party of Big Tech (among other things). And you know who is waiting in the wings to take the reins? The Vice P, someone who came from our state of Big Tech.

          This might be another Kabuki. Just like previous legislations with unintended side effects, this whole show might just end up strengthening the entrenched big players.

        • Raging Texan says:

          thx for feedback, Wolf, you are correct it could be great if they accomplish anything.

        • Raging Texan says:

          Gerry totally agree Reagan was horrible just like all the others but I see so many people say this stuff about “buybacks = manipulation” . If that’s true than would you say that “Dividends = manipulation” and would you say “issuing shares = manipulation”. In reality any of these activities affect 1) the value of the business 2) market price of the shares.

          If you owned a small business and had four partners, and one wanted out, would you want the govt to say it’s illegal to cash him out because that affects the value of the other 3 partners’ stakes? Would you want the govt to say that the exiting partner is only allowed to sell his stake to someone who is not a partner? What would this really accomplish?

          Let’s go deep on this what do you think?

        • MCH says:

          Wolf,

          you do realize that China’s so called crack down on it’s myriad of companies has nothing to do with whether they are monopolies or not, right?

          It’s a statement about power, and what people are allowed to have.

          While I don’t particularly condone “monopolies” like those at Amazon or Apple, you do realize that some of those have brought a tremendous amount of innovation to the market. Innovations that have been practically driven by consumer demands. It isn’t an unreasonable way to look at things.

          I do get kind of concerned every time there is a social or equity argument about monopoly and their undue influence, the argument becomes very touchy feely. Because equity and justice is always in the eyes of the beholder. Remember, there were a trio of individuals about a century ago (a German, a Georgian, and a Chinese) who had their own idea of what’s equitable, and then managed to get their way, the results were pretty horrific. And only one of those three got what they deserved, and only after doing enough damage to make him one of the most revile man in history. The other two died of ripe old age…

        • Ron says:

          May need a break from this

        • Ralph Hiesey says:

          Wolf I can’t believe all the cynicism you’re getting on this issue. If people in government hear this kind of cynicism from citizens when they are really trying to do something beneficial and needed for the country and our economy–

          is that more likely to encourage them to real effort and hard work to make the country better?

          Or might they just say, “I guess those jerks will get what they get deserve..?

        • Raging Texan says:

          Ralph and Wolf overnight I figured out why I’m so skeptical that the Biden admin wants to break up monopolies. Because the biggest monopolies that are making it so difficult for families to operate are all govt owned or created:

          1) The Fed and it’s lapdog the IRS (monopoly on the USD fake money). Anyone who tries to use a different currency is taxed and required to do ridiculous bookkeeping and guilty until proven innocent, subject to audits in flagrant violation of the bill of rights
          2) Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac (monopoly on housing, contributing to high prices by letting the businesses we formerly knew as banks to push risk to the govt)
          3) Medicaire/Obamacare/Medicaid (price of health insurance has increased 10X for my family since 2004, prices of routine visits and medicine are absurd. Physicians assistants in TX charge my family $150 for 5 minutes to look in a kid’s ear etc, that’s an hourly billing rate of $1800/hour )
          4) Social Security (Takes a big slice ~15% of what our employers pays us, that could go to us, and blows it on what? Everyone gets a rate of return much lower than inflation. Did I sign up for this?)
          5) Section 8 (Competition for rent. Drives up rent. It’s not just cheap apartments, it’s all over my neighborhood of nice SFH)
          6) Trump/Biden direct deposits and eviction moratorium (People who are working have to compete with people who are not but still get the same $)
          Probably dozens of other fedgov monopolies, these are just the ones top of mind.

          So yes it would be great if the Biden admin busted a few corporate monopolies, but I would also need them to go after all the govt monopolies to break my cynicism.

      • Ron says:

        Went to Walmart today they now have tv screens that scan your face won’t be back this isn’t China or am I wrong these corporations are out of control vote with your dollars it’s all they understand

        • rhodium says:

          Walmart feels and looks like the Deathstar. It’s monoculture grey interior with hoards of sullen looking individuals buying carts of landfill trash depresses me so much. I decided on moral principal not to go there anymore even for the two items I stockpile occasionally due to the cheapness.

          Anyway, competition means more efficiency and choices. Incompetents who mind-blowingly manage to climb the ladder are all the more likely to fall off. Workers have the ability to stand up for themselves more easily by switching sides. Innovation is fueled. Pretend work and make work jobs should be far less common. I very much support all of this, it’s about making sure the purported benefits of capitalism actually exist. It’s so ironic to me that the D’s are pushing this more, but that’s what the R party is these days.

        • Shiloh1 says:

          I wouldn’t be caught dead at Walmart.

    • Old School says:

      Most giant companies just implode on themselves. GE and GM and Enron and Exxon are four that I think we’re number 1 in market cap. When you are number 1, everyone is shooting for you.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Three of those 4 are still in business. One (GM) was bailed out by the government and the bond holders got screwed.

        The gov under B just announced as part of the Infrastructure give away that “only electric cars made by union labor will qualify for a new purchase tax credit” which anoints GM, Ford and not Tesla or Honda.

        • Anthony A. says:

          Include VW with there non union plant in Tennessee.

        • Bob says:

          In one short post you just highlighted the problem with government. It’s sole job is now to give favors to rent-seekers. Rent seekers used to be people who made something or produced a service. Now rent seekers are social justice warriors and their lawyers.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Wisdom Seeker

      I think I understand (and agree) with what you meant in your post.

      However, in our era of “soft corruption” I suspect government (read: politicians) can function rather well in a concentrated environment of monopolies – THE “CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS” ARE FANTASTIC!!!

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Agree and see my comment upthread about exposing the donors backing each politician whenever the politician is mentioned.

    • KMOUT says:

      Right on Brah,
      You nailed it.

      This will be just another legislation capture that will serve the Davos crowd and the great reset.

      Just go back to original intent of monopoly law.

  4. Duane says:

    Wow, awesome that this website posted this nice little antitrust synopsis here. In a lot of ways common sense took a holiday when Reagan took office and sanity hasn’t returned since. (And right before I was reading this article I was on Wiki looking at all the assets owned by Disney. Mind blown).

  5. 1) We have companies so they can list on the NYSE and sell shares which always rise in value as long as the Federal government increases the money supply, This growth we call technology. 2) Nothing government does is meant to interfere with 1)… 3) When government disappears, shrinks, or outright fails, technology disappears as well.

  6. DR DOOM says:

    “Bombshell ” is where I clicked off. I will assure you one thing that a 70+ page executive order from ANY president is nothing but political butt wipe.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      DR DOOM,

      “…is nothing but political butt wipe.”

      You’re wrong. Read my comment above. You need to understand what is going on here. This is huge.

      • MCH says:

        Wolf…

        Do you seriously expect that Google will be broken up in the next fifty years? If you think about it from the purely from their business model, and where they bring revenue from. How would anyone break them up at this point, they’d have to wholesale shut down the company.

        At the core, it’s an advertisement focused business, you can spin away the rest of the garbage around cloud, gmail, and their other bets garbage. But to practically break up their power, which is their advertising centric business, you have to literally define areas of the internet that’s off limits and limit the number of companies in certain industry subsectors that they have to work with. Who would become this arbiter?

        Worst of all, the only reason this can be even considered is because of the “global” influence of the company, which is literally speaking not that pervasive, given that Google has zero access in China. I think for better or worse, this is going to be a very slippery slope to go down on.

        • Javert Chip says:

          MCH

          “…How would anyone break them up at this point, they’d have to wholesale shut down the company…”

          Nonsense.

          Hypothetically, if Google has 90% of internet advertising on day one, and Google is told they cannot have more than (I’m making this number up ) 60%, Google could achieve that in one of 3 generic ways:

          1) Shut down smaller, less profitable accounts & tell them they have to go elsewhere (this option will never happen)

          2) Sell accounts to smaller rivals

          3) Google could spin off an independent GOOGLE II with enough accounts that both were under the limit.

          Personal advice to MCH:

          If you honestly believe what you wrote: “…the “global” influence of the company, which is literally speaking not that pervasive, given that Google has zero access in China…”, I’d strongly advise not starting an advertising supported business.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Javert Chip,

          The big problem isn’t the ads. It’s the technology that delivers the ads. And Google owns most of that technology. It obtained it via various acquisitions of ad tech companies (including DoubleClick) and through its own development.

          And then Google fuses everything together. For example, its search algo as of this month started to prioritize websites that pass the Google speed test. Well, if you use other firm’s ads that pay more, your site is going to flunk the speed test, and it will be deprioritized in the search results. This is official published Google policy.

          Google has about 90% of search. If Google blocks your site, you essentially disappear from the internet. That’s how much power it has.

          I’m struggling with that right now. Search is hugely important, and Google leverages it to extort changes from publishers that will only benefit Google. People don’t realize just how interconnected and far-reaching Google’s empire is.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          MCH,

          It could easily be broken up. Most of its entities make serious amounts of money. And the decision makers DO need to go to jail.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          If you can break up Standard Oil and Bell Phones you can break up anything.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          Google could be broken up simply by mandating that 5 Baby Googles get created, each with a clone of the current Google software and a fair share of the underlying server hardware.

          All current Google shareholders get 1:1 shares in the Baby Googles.

          Have the Baby Googles compete. Whichever goes beyond 30% market share gets split in half with shareholders again getting 1:1 split shares in the Baby Babies.

          Repeat process for all the software-based IT monopolies.

        • Auldyin says:

          MCH
          Google and the rest could be broken up by insisting that each one of their server farms be sold to the highest independent bidder with data to remain on the hdds.
          Data is only 0&1s on a hard drive somewhere, whoever has the hard drive, has the power, that’s why they guard them with their life.

      • DR DOOM says:

        Wolf, I did go back and read your comment. Google needs to be broken up because it’s a monopoly. I am firmly in your camp. My not so elegant “butt wipe” comment is based on my opinion that the executive order will be diluted as it tasks a multitude of agencies for implementation. Agencies of government have been captured by those they regulate. Biden could direct the AG to go after Google . This will not happen. Congress could remove the protection they gave Google to be sued by those it has harmed. They won’t because Google keeps the money flowing or facilitates the money flowing into Congress. Google is smart. We are left with the electorate where at least 1/2 of the electorate loves the reality or perception of censoring of speech of the other 1/2. Google has learned from Congress. I can make a strong case that Google had ia lot of influence in the development of this order. Just like B’r rabbit Google wants to be thrown into in the thicket of its likening.

  7. scott ellis says:

    Big Government wants more rules to control Big Business, not break it up, and for the betterment of more government, not the individual citizen.

  8. Harry Houndstooth says:

    When the FANG stocks account for 85% of the S&P earnings at the peak of the biggest market bubble in history, antitrust has been asleep at the wheel.

    • Harry Houndstooth says:

      85% of earnings GROWTH

    • Augustus Frost says:

      Look at JP Morgan Chase earnings. It tells anyone everything they need to know about the hyper financialization of the US economy. It makes a larger profit than all but a handful of companies and like so many others, it’s mostly extraction and not value add. Financialization is a lot more profitable than producing something of useful value or real wealth.

      • georgist says:

        This. Imagine not having to go through the ball ache of actually making something and convincing someone to buy it.

        The rentier uses no raw materials.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Perhaps no surprise then that Finance is the sector with the largest number of corporations listed on the US stock exchanges…

  9. Dano says:

    Thank you for posting this! It may well be the best thing to come out of this administration—provided they enforce it fairly & not politically.

    As much as I personally love the convenience of Amazon, there is no doubt that convenience comes at a price for many. The same can be said if the monopsony of Tyson Foods (chicken). There are plenty more.

    I wish them well and good luck at fairly enforcing these ideas.

    • David W. Young says:

      Dano, what about Microsoft. Loaded Linux ubuntu on this modestly equipped tablet I am using because Dell had loaded the memory and storage hog called Windows 10 on this machine. The constant updates by MS eventually caused this Inspiron 3185 to not be able to update and MS never gave up trying. Use of broadband and my time was huge until I wiped Win10 off and installed a clean Linux build. Simpler system, a little quirky, just have to get used to it, but very conservative in its use of memory and main storage. I like having choices, and not having to march to a single drummer. Can’t stand Google. They call me weekly about my Google Business Account, and I closed my business 2.5 years ago. On my Android phone, I avoid loading their apps.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        David W. Young,

        I don’t think I have the gumption or time to do what you did. The Wolf Street server runs on Linux (and that’s a good thing). But that’s as much as I want to deal with Linux.

        • GotCollateral says:

          > But that’s as much as I want to deal with Linux.

          That’s pretty much the crux of the issue here, you are not alone with that, but i’m not sure that it requires diktats from above…

      • Brent says:

        After using Win 7 for 11 years I eventually switched to Win 10 LTSC (bought a license on eBay for $5,thats it).

        Well,I can definitely state-this not widely advertised Win version is abso-f…-lutelu perfect.Everything you need,nothing you dont need.Updates ? Just a gentle reminder ONCE A MONTH !

        And for some reason which I dont understand the GFLOPS on Win 10 LTSC compared to stripped-down & highly optimized Win 7 increased by 6 GFLOPS.

        I am using Linux Tails on USB stick too.Good for Top Secret communications & traceless browsing and not much else.

        Recently tried Ubuntu.Very simple test,inverting 3,000×3,000 matrix in Gnumeric (Linux version of Excel).Ubunty dies every f… time.While MS Excel accomplishes this task in 90 seconds every time w/o freezing.

        Lets kids play with this Linux BS.Probably they think they’re changing the World ?

        As to 19 of 20 world’s fastest supercomputers running Linux-it has no relation to my daily needs.Supercomputers usually run just one program tailored to one specific task.

        • GotCollateral says:

          > Recently tried Ubuntu.Very simple test,inverting 3,000×3,000 matrix in Gnumeric (Linux version of Excel).Ubunty dies every f… time.While MS Excel accomplishes this task in 90 seconds every time w/o freezing.

          Lol compiling libarmadillo with OpenBLAS on a linux system, one can solve a system of sparce linear equations in the form of a matrix with dims 252 x 300000 in less than a second.

          Use crap tools, expect crap

        • David W Young says:

          Brent, I am happily retired and built all my own computers for my business for some 25 years. I no longer need an O/S and associated software that can land a Mars crawler. I don’t get into the bits and bytes any longer. Many satisfied Linux users out there with moderate computing needs. The real point is not allowing MS to rule their days.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          “Ubuntu.Very simple test,inverting 3,000×3,000 matrix in Gnumeric (Linux version of Excel).Ubunty dies ”

          App issue not OS issue.

        • Brent says:

          Gentlemen;

          I am not trying to win debating contest.
          I understand that 3,000×3,000 matrix can be inverted on Linux.

          I can even buy $3.99 measuring tape,$1.99 C-clamp at Home Depot,construct Turing Maschine and invert it therewith.And verify results with abacus.Because this task is computable.

          In 2015 Microsoft pushed Win 10 down my throat by installing it automatically.I tinkered with this monstrosity for 3 days and reverted to Win 7.

          Now that serious stuff like Solidworks,Solid Edge,Siemens NX does not work as it should on Win 7 I started looking for alternatives.

          Tried this,tried that – Win 10 LTSC turned out to be the perfect answer.And it will be supported till 2029.

          I read about how LTSC version came into being.Big companies told Microsoft:

          “We have zero tolerance for crappy OS.Make it work or peddle your wares elsewhere”

          And MS has no choice but to deliver.Because big customers HAVE to be listened to.

          I hope my comments broadened somebody’s horizon.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          Everyone knows Ubuntu is for budget tablets with tiny memory.

        • brisket says:

          I’ve dabbled in Linux over the years, and my experience is that it is now, finally, ready for mainstream use. I found it very easy to download and install Mint Linux, I didn’t have to install a million drivers, everything on my laptop mapped perfectly to the OS. Which was not my experience in previous years. I can even use my favourite (proprietary) pro audio software and audio interface, which was unthinkable just a few years ago. As a bonus, I get much better performance than I did with Win10 on the same (ageing) machine.

        • Bell says:

          I just wish the G-D Linux drivers would work seamlessly.

      • georgist says:

        Imagine if Linux didn’t exist as an alternative.
        Can you guess how much a windows license would be? As banks and other essential points of sale move to online only would Microsoft use economies of scale to cut license costs to allow the little guy to exist more easily?

        It would be a fortune every year and everything would be an add on.

        Linux is all that stands between us and enormous computing costs.

        • GotCollateral says:

          imagine if we didnt expect everyone to learn how to read or write and were generally ok with that like we are with software programing and FOSS systems…

          Big Tech priests power would be extremely limited if more people were “literate” and not “forced” to be useds…

      • Auldyin says:

        DWY
        Kudos and snap!
        I now only connect to the internet only via Firefox and Ubuntu Linux. Faster, cleaner, a whizz.
        I have all my video, photo and Cyberlink on a dedicated high power laptop win7 which I never connect to the internet. I have a massive ancient desktop rig that dual boots win10Win7 which I also never connect to the internet. All transfers between machines via key drive. Took me years to get here.

      • intosh says:

        What about Microsoft?
        They fly under the radar, while expanding their monopoly. They have learned. They have well-placed “agents” working in Washington, according to the NYT.

      • Dano says:

        There are companies that GREATLY concern me, like Google & Facebook (both of which Hoover up every bit of info the can on you), and those of less concern like Microsoft and Amazon (though both of these need a good beat down as well).

        Consolidation of power & data scares the **** out of me as my personal greatest concern is civil liberties & privacy. On that count, I’d like to see us adopt some of what was done in the EU regarding privacy, the right to be forgotten, etc.

        This nation is now run by an oligarchy of big tech. It started under Clinton, and has never stopped. It’s time to end it.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Dano

      Jeez! What market share do you consider to be “monopolistic”?

      The last I calculated, Amazon was less than 10% of total US retail sales (correct me if I’m wrong).

  10. Brant Lee says:

    The Chinese government is clamping down on tech for their own interests of power and control, not for any rights of the citizens. The U.S. government has done literally nothing to head off tech interests digging into the personal lives of its citizens, for whatever reasons, campaign donations?

    Rights for our privacy are not protected, information gathered, stored, as well as sold for profit is allowed by our politicians. Do we have rights to privacy of our personal information or not? Without this advantage, our tech giants would not be so–giant.

    • David W. Young says:

      Brant, once I found out that Facebook had been selling my personal information without paying me a royalty, I closed my account. Have no social media accounts since, because my privacy has been violated in some many other formats, I don’t need to be complicit.

    • Old School says:

      There are some things the government is not allowed to do, but they can purchase it in the marketplace if you have signed away your rights in a service agreement.

    • Grave Digr says:

      These corporations are now threatening the biggest monopoly, which is the government. A huge battle is getting started. Just like in China – the US govt hates competition.

  11. cb says:

    Concentrated wealth and power is always a threat to free markets, a free economy and a free people.

    • Old School says:

      I was surprised that the crypto “industry” already has lobbyists in DC.

      And in keeping with my name I don’t use Amazon, Facebook, Apple or Twitter. I am sorry to say I use Google. I tried to use alternative to Google, but couldn’t stick to it. Might try again.

      • Javert Chip says:

        Duck Duck Go is a great search engine… they don’t track & sell your data, and they don’t censor search results.

        • drifterprof says:

          Javert –

          Yes, I my default is Duck Duck Go. I use FireFox exclusively for financial. And a little Edge. Although I do have a set of tabs usually open on Google: Gmail, Calendar, Keep, and Translate.

          Translate is great for learning a language or other translations. You can paste paragraphs from a foreign source and get a pretty good translation.

          Am planning to set up a dual-boot Windows and Linux. I have the time (retired) and tech background that I think it’s possible I may gravitate to Linux.

        • jm says:

          As drifterproof is too deeply nested to allow a reply, I’ll reply here.
          Never trust Google translate for Japanese. Its translations not only read like gibberish, they are often horribly wrong in subtly toxic ways. (I’m a sometime professional translator of Japanese.)

  12. Anthony A. says:

    I suspect moving this effort forward to success will take the formation of several new government agencies/programs staffed by a large number of attorneys and administrative staff and overseen by several “important” people.

    Plus, then the law suits, haggling back and forth, the rebuttals, face time in front of senators and congress, and then the Justice department court cases, etc…….will take years.

  13. Edward says:

    Given stock index concentration in a number of these companies, might the anti-trust changes have an unintended consequence of pricking the market bubble?

    • Augustus Frost says:

      You have it backwards. It’s the underlying negative psychology driving the change in attitude toward antitrust enforcement that is the real root cause of both.

    • Javert Chip says:

      Edward

      If $100 of business is concentrated into one company, antitrust enforcement splitting them up into two companies doing $50 each won’t have a hell of a lot of stock market impact.

      Yea, there might be some impact on the day the antitrust ruling is announced, but that’s about it.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      @Edward: The timescales will be totally different.

      Also, loss in monopoly market cap (if any) would be offset by gains among those no longer having their necks throttled. Possible more than offset, since the freer economy will innovate and grow faster as well.

  14. ivanislav says:

    Javert Chip is right that the article lacks adequate substance – this is too dumbed down. I get the point of the article, but with that amount of text it really should get into some details instead of hand-waving that “it’s highly technical”. This is coming from someone generally supportive of EFF positions.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      ivanislav,

      Read my comment about Google above.

      So I’ll repeat my conclusion of that comment here:
      What this piece does is it gives you to understand why Google was difficult or impossible to pursue on antitrust grounds before, and why Google (and other companies) are now facing serious legal problems on antitrust grounds in the US.

      The Executive Order is linked in the first line of the article, so click on it and you can read it yourself.

      • David W. Young says:

        Wolf, and Google totally ignores the Do Not Call list, but I am building a drone to take care of that problem. They never stop calling you, I have silenced the ringer on my landline, and calls only go to the answering machine which picks up after just 2 rings. Thank God for cellphones which are pretty good at blocking spam.

      • Javert Chip says:

        Wolf:

        You are a victim of Google’s monopoly. We understand that; further, we understand it’s a day-to-day issue for you (and it’s a reason I frequently contribute to Wolf Street- I highly value this site)

        I think what Ivanslav & I are saying is neither one of us have the slightest intention of reading 72 pages of political & legal bullshit “executive orders” … all we’re asking for is a knowledgable party for a post that cogently summarizes (25-50 words or less) the top 5-10 issues so we can begin to grasp what’s going on.

        I don’t want to know how to build a watch; I only want to know what time it is.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          The kernel: the US gov is going to consider other factors beyond just the consumer price in deciding whether a company has too much presence/ control of any product or service.

          This is the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ or log splitter. The hammer blows that will drive the wedge into Google etc. will be litigation over a period of years.

          The former, classic, anti-trust busts required proof the consumer was being screwed on price. A poster child was the rail syndicate, where the small customer was subsidizing the big customer.

          Re: summary. The summary or theory or principle of the A- bomb is that a few pounds of the right kind of mass, can be converted into a very large amount of energy.

          The implementation of this principle, the work required to make it happen, cannot be summarized in a few words.

          BTW: The is the US playing catch-up with the EU, and its head gal who I respectfully call a ball- breaker.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          PS. re: ‘Litigation over years’ That’s if Google etc. fight new regs.
          They may settle. But you can be sure that this ‘shot across the bow’ will have Google’s immediate attention and may modify its behavior in the near term.

  15. Johnny Ro says:

    If this is a real sea change then it is a bombshell indeed.

    Thanks Mr. Richter.

    P.S. I am on the lookout for more news of China tech giants brought up short. CCP will not be bashful as it proceeds there. Rule of evolving law, not rule of lawyers.

  16. Brady Boyd says:

    Ha! I’ll believe it when I actually see something happening. Google & Amazon, who tell Biden what to do aren’t going to like this so that means business as usual. LOL!!!

  17. J-Pow!!! says:

    I don’t think Biden actually has the balls to do this. The only hope is he wants it as some kind of legacy.

    • Anthony A. says:

      The real question is has anybody actually explained to him what he is starting to do?

  18. Brian says:

    Cory is a luminary of the 21st century. Very happy to see him (and EFF) featured on Wolf Street.

  19. Phoenix_Ikki says:

    Props for seeing EFF publish an article here. Definitely didn’t expect to see this on Wolf’s site..good stuff for sure.

  20. GotCollateral says:

    Really stems from useds of these megaplatform unwilling to adapt FOSS. I can understand moreso from a infrastructure standpoint with rail roads and telecom fiberoptics, but less so with closed source sofware running on commodity hardware.

  21. MonkeyBusiness says:

    EFF, please let the readership know when you start building up your short position against Google. That way, we know the whole thing is not fluff.

    • GotCollateral says:

      Assuming the diktat has legs “eventually”, when the devs behind these behemoths move on (and the stuff falls apart with no new bug fixes/cache updates/maintenance/etc) to providing the same services on decentralized systems, diktats from above wont be able to help useds who are completely unwilling to adapt to FOSS.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Sheesh. Find out about the EFF. It’s not a Wall Street firm. You might be motivated by blind GREED. But not everyone is.

  22. historicus says:

    Call me old fashioned…
    But shouldnt the Executive signing the Executive Order KNOW WHAT’s IN IT!!
    There is no way Joe Biden could answer any questions about “his ” executive order…if it is a 72 part detailed order.

    AND, Executive Orders CAN NOT MAKE LAW. Only Congress can legislate.
    Not the Executive.
    Executive Orders are not mentioned in the Constitution enumerating powers to the Executive. The only thing that can remotely be pointed to in the Constitution regarding this “power” is Article II, sect 3, clause 5.
    That “…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, ..”
    ie, he can only tweak passed law and only do so to make certain the spirit of the law passed is dutifully instituted.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      If you read the article, you will find that the interpretation of the Antitrust law comes from administrations not from the law. This executive order changed the interpretation that has prevailed since the Reagan administration.

    • drifterprof says:

      “There is no way Joe Biden could answer any questions about “his ” executive order…if it is a 72 part detailed order.”

      That is trolling and hyperbolic lie. I would bet that Biden could answer the questions better than you Historicus. You best keep to your factual descriptions of the Fed.

      • Javert Chip says:

        drifterprof

        As a casual observer of your offer, I’d recommend historicus take you up on the bet (no way to definitively decide this).

        Joe (despite his oft-disproven claims of academic brilliance) is not a real bright guy (according to Obama).

    • Raging Texan says:

      Sure executives can make law- doesn’t mean it’s legal under the Constitution, but they can enforce their stuff.

      Consider HIPPA- it drives up costs for every medical provider in America, and you hear about it every time you go in. It’s the law, right? There are stiff consequences and people have been fined and punished. Now, show me where the current HIPPA regulations or anything like them ever passed Congress?

      It’s definitely a law, the govt enforces it, touches every life in America. Was this law created the way the Constitution specifies?

      • Nick Kelly says:

        Ever hear of the War in Vietnam? Legally there wasn’t one. Only Congress can declare war.

        An extreme example within the ‘Vietnam Incident’: when Nixon woke up one morning and decided to enter Cambodia to chase the VC, he hadn’t consulted with ANYONE. Brezhnev couldn’t have done it in the USSR. But at least this was run out of the front door of the WH. Iran / Contra was run out of the backdoor. How Reagan escaped impeachment for violating an embargo on arms to Iran, a US law. while Clinton was impeached for an affair, is a puzzle.

        The rise of Presidential power at the expense of the Constitution is described in the book ‘The Imperial Presidency’ by Arthur Schlesinger. I have heard one historian on TV say the Founders would be ‘horrified’ at the results of their work.

  23. Petunia says:

    Sounds like the administration is going to be shaking down big tech, a la a black ghetto preacher.

    A couple of the biggest firms have extremely shady origins, not the garage creations common in their folklore. They will fold in any fight because they have to, to protect the big lies. Living on a Pacific island or another continent won’t be far enough away for those poseurs.

  24. georgist says:

    That “Morning in America” section makes me want to applaud.

    This is a society I could get behind, not the corporate dystopia we have today.

    Yet again, Reagan sucked.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      In ‘The Triumph of Politics’ by Reagan’s former OMB David Stockman, he says it was common ground with staff that Reagan was ‘dumb’.
      Briefs were condensed to a page, then Stockman started with pie charts to explain budget decisions, Reagan had fixated on the phrase ‘deficit financing’ and once burst out: ‘it’s not government spending that is the problem, it’s deficit financing!’

      It has to be said that no Western democracy routinely comes up with such intellectual light- weights as the US. Whether you give the crown to Reagan, Bush 2, or T is debatable. Or not. Reagan could remember his lines.

      But in brains, a lot was made of the Thatcher /Reagan duo.
      Thatcher, after winning a scholarship to Oxford, trained as a scientist in X ray diffraction and worked for 3 M’s research.
      Then she became a lawyer before running for Parliament.
      Her maiden speech was on a highly technical tax matter and was delivered over an hour without notes.
      Johnson? Ok, odd but not dumb.

      Merkel also trained as a nuclear scientist.

      To be clear that I’m not picking on the GOP, Nixon was a very considerable scholar.

      To quote Steve Bannon from Wolff’s book ‘Siege’, speaking in expectation of T’s impeachment:

      ‘With Nixon, we had class, even though it was Nixon, and we had smart. Here we don’t have class and we don’t have smart. His departure will be …. unseemly.’

      Since T survived impeachment, Bannon’s prediction was premature.

      • Petunia says:

        Bannon is a smart guy, but in the end, he remained a creature of the brotherhood, hollywood, and wall street. Where T out played him was in his ability to pull back and see the bigger picture, regardless of his personal interests.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          You are alone in that belief. Everyone who has written about Trump agree on one thing: he has no ideology. He wasn’t even a Republican.
          Example. at Trump’s request, after the Mercers laid down the law ($$$) Bannon took over a non-existent campaign in 2016. He ousted Manafort, a ‘lazy no- show’.

          After Trump won, and the planning of the inauguration began
          Bannon said they should spend one dollar less than the lowest so far. Instead, the grift began right out the door, prices of Trump venue doubling, breaking records with a hundred million hard to account for.

          That said, I would say Bannon has more to answer for. Bannon is a reader of some arcane stuff. Trump has probably never read a book. Bannon excuse for backing Trump was that he was a vehicle to achieve an end. Bannon can be blamed because he has free will.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          If anyone wants an insider, unvarnished look a T, with ZERO politics there is only one: ‘Trumped’ by Jack O’Donnell

          O’Donnell was T’s lead Casino guy, right- hand man and something of a confidant.

      • Petunia says:

        Regarding Reagan, I didn’t vote for him and was not glad when he won. However, there was never a doubt in my mind that he loved America. With Joe, I wouldn’t bet on it.

      • NBay says:

        Don’t forget Carter, also nuclear power plant trained…..but he made the mistake of trying to stop needless conspicuous consumption in a National speech and was trashed for it….by the Reagan puppet masters.

  25. Steven McIlraith says:

    Hi Wolf,

    I’m sympathetic to anti-trust and interested in more information about how things are working out presently, especially considering the dominance of various mega-media-internet-behemoths. I went to the EFF website to see what else they had on offer and read another post they had about Facebook. I gave up on FB long time ago, and IG fairly recently as they seem to be one in the same, just different intensities. Won’t go in to the details unless you’re really interested (haha) but just got tired of the BS.

    At the end of the post I was reading they said this: “We need the ability to alter Facebook to suit our needs, even when Facebook’s management and shareholders try to stand in the way.”

    Now I am really open about how antagonistic and nauseous I am about the company, but they are a company. No one is forcing anyone to participate in their shenanigans.
    Anyone who enters the FB/IG world HAS to know they will be USED AND ABUSED for someone (MZ’s) else’s gain. I don’t shop Amazon, prefer to either order direct from the supplier or try to get locally. I know you have had your own experience with this, but as a small business owner in the past, I really tried to support LOCAL businesses as much as I could, even when it cost a bit more.

    Anyhow, basic point is, no one is forcing anyone to use FB. If everyone stopped, the Markster would fail. He could live out the rest of his life on some private island spending the brazillians of buttcon or whatever until he passed into the ultimate marble and grass covered mulch we all are destined for.

    The problem is we are hooked and addicted, or rather, you are. For some reason this thing that only a few short years ago didn’t even exist we now are calling a “public square” or, whatevs. Actually, the public square exists in the area just outside city hall in your respective city. FB, IG, AMZ, YHO, SBSTK, SLTE, TWT, etc etc etc are febrile if you choose to opt out.

    The idea the we “…need the right to alter FB to suit our needs….” is painfully stupid. The very fact that someone thinks this, is evidence they are totally subsumed by it. FB only has power to the extent that people voluntarily give power over to it.

    The answer is, stop.

    Stop paying attention to it.

    Stop posting.

    Empty your account.

    Talk to your neighbor, in person.

    Write a letter to your friend and put it in the mail. The USPS still delivers to their door.

    Grow up and stop demanding immediate gratification.

    If everyone did this, MZ would still have brazilian dollars but no power to influence anything.

    FB only has power because you give it to it.

    Grow up.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Steven McIlraith,

      This has NOTHING to do with the article. Neither the author nor I even mentioned FB. The quote you cited — “need the right to alter FB to suit our needs” — is not from here. I’ve never had a FB account, nor an account with any of its other products. Did you accidentally post this on the wrong website?

      • GotCollateral says:

        Could easily replace FB in their post with GOOG, etc…

        -________________________-

        • Wolf Richter says:

          No you couldn’t — if you use your head. Read my comment about Google owning the advertising infrastructure and 90% of search. Consumers don’t have to use Google, but everyone in advertising/media/publishing HAS to use Google because of its monopoly in those areas.

        • GotCollateral says:

          > but everyone in advertising/media/publishing HAS to use Google because of its monopoly in those areas.

          What a load of BS, they could hire engineers, design open protocols and build out their own open software infrastructure where they can interconnect with other sites/apps and incentivize sites/apps to use it where the want to advertise on and users to use such platforms, but they wont.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          GotCollateral,

          What a load of BS. Sheesh. You’re totally clueless how advertising works. It doesn’t matter what YOU can design because you cannot place it anywhere and no one will be using it. That’s what monopoly power is all about; it creates such market dominance that nothing else will succeed. Sure, eventually something might change, and monopolies can fall apart on their own. But that’s not happening here and now.

          And if whatever you’re building is any threat to Google’s monopoly at all, Google, which has near-unlimited resources, will buy it — and often shut it down. This is called the “kill zone” around these big tech companies. They protect their monopoly that way. This too has now come under scrutiny.

        • GotCollateral says:

          > What a load of BS. Sheesh. You’re totally clueless how advertising works. It doesn’t matter what YOU can design because you cannot place it anywhere and no one will be using it.

          You are completely unwilling to see that those advertisers must incentivize both platforms AND users of said, on top of working together to build and develop open protocols and infrastructure with other advertisers. It’s a principled stance that everyone in the ecosystem must take from your collective experiences dealing with these closed source private giants, for your own economic benefit in the long run.

          For you and others, your responsibility just stops at wanting to sign up into some private centralized system, slap some js and call it a day and complete avoid thinking about distribution and the costs and the incentives surrounding that.

          I find that extremely naive, and whatever putative thing comes from this EO, it will never satisfy people who ascribe to the above, forever wanting to ignore such costs/incentives at play and try to force someone else to deal with it without trying to deal with it with others in similar shoes (well deal with it outside of expecting gov to actually be able to deal with it).

          Once these things move over to distributed systems and organizations, long after google et al have been nerfed, people like yourself will have no one to praise for their diktats…

        • Wolf Richter says:

          GotCollateral,

          I’ll just respond to this and not waste any more of my time on your other stuff:

          “For you and others, your responsibility just stops at wanting to sign up into some private centralized system, slap some js and call it a day…”

          You’re ignorant of this website, not only of the internet advertising system. Since about 2012, I have created html code and have placed it on my site to run ads that I negotiated with my own clients.

          This is my way around Google. It’s a direct relationship between advertiser and publisher. There is no Google anything involved. And it’s the perfect way to go for both.

          Currently, the ad directly under every article is an ad for direct client of mine, Tim Miller’s metal roofing shingles company. Your ad blocker cannot block it (hahahaha), and you will see it if you just open your eyes. Everyone who comes to this site is served this ad.

          But this is an exception. Big advertisers don’t do this. And it’s not how internet advertising works. Internet advertising is automated and runs of a complex infrastructure in milliseconds with many layers that serves those ads on a micro-targeted basis — show this ad to “single high-income males over 50 living in these 15 states in the US.” In these types of ads, everyone on my site sees different ads.

          To get the terms straight: a company like Ford is the advertiser; a website like WOLF STREET is the publisher. Google – in part because it owns the vast majority of the advertising infrastructure — and many other layers are between the advertiser and the publisher.

          I also use two ad agencies who both have their own clients (advertisers). The TD Ameritrade ad you see a lot on my site at the top (if you don’t block ads) is such an ad from my ad agency who made a deal with TD Ameritrade’s ad agency.

          So in this case: advertiser ==> advertiser’s ad agency ==> my ad agency ==> WOLF STREET.

          But wait… My ad agency uses the Google platform to place these ads, do the data tracking, including delivery verification and visibility, billing data, etc. This is the Google infrastructure.

          Big advertisers have long ago bought into the automated targeted form of internet advertising. That’s how they operate. Companies like Google have persuaded them to do this, and most of the dollars that the advertiser pays goes to Google and some goes to other layers, and then the crumbs, if anything goes to publishers.

        • Nick Kelly says:

          ‘What a load of BS, they could hire engineers, design open protocols and build out their own open software infrastructure where they can interconnect’

          Silliest comment this week in a tough field.

          Why break up Standard Oil. Just drill yr own wells, build refineries..

          Why break up AT@T. Just string wires…

          Why bust the RR syndicate. Just buy up right- of- way ( this one i is actually impossible) and locos, rails etc.

          It is a fact that in some cases the earlier adopter can create a moat, making it very tough for competitors. The RR is a rare case of a perfect example: the RRs were built BEFORE the hiways on virgin prairie. The cities are there because the RR was there first. No matter how adept the competitor he can never catch up.
          The fact that RR is a perfect example doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply here. In English ‘to Google’ MEANS to search. Its position is not easily assailable.

          To repeat, this is the US catching up with the EU. In 2006 the EU after fining MS about 800 million for refusing to release Windows without Media Player, fined it about 2 mil per day until compliance. It complied. This was the case that had Bill Gates, on video, rocking back and forth in the witness chair as he was confronted with evidence.

          This is same regulator that told Apple it owed Ireland 17 billion.
          (Apple had tried to book ALL EU sales thru Ireland)

      • Steven McIlraith says:

        Apologies, I only followed your link to see what else they talked about. Not trying to attack you and understand what I said is off topic. Mea Culpa. There was a kind of promotion of that site and I try to understand where some people come from when I land and that sentence, to me, was a little jarring.

        Really appreciate your perspectives and will continue to read.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          You did have a strong underlying point that people need to exercise freedom of choice and avoid the monopolies wherever they can.

          My slogan is “Don’t Feed The Billionaires”!

    • Fat Chewer says:

      There is already a new killer app that few understand. It’s called authentication. You don’t get far on the Internet without it. Google accounts are leading the charge. You may already have a Google account, but you don’t even know it. That little circle in the top right of any Google window is where it is. It probably has a letter in it that is the first letter of your Google account name.

      That authentication process proves that the person using both the account and the device (phone and/or a linked PC) is actually holding the device in their hands. IP and MAC addresses, IMEI numbers and such are Globally Unique User IDs (GUIDs) hardwired into your device. You may not believe that they are globally unique, but they are, just like your landline telephone number is. In conjunction with logins of all sorts, and a fair bit of encryption, they are the front line in anti hacking.

      They are mostly multi step processes that make the job of hacking your account very difficult for hackers. This is because unless you are actually holding the phone and it is unlocked, you will not receive the text message with yet more numbers that you must enter in order to log in. So, it’s not absolutely perfect, but it will discourage most, if not all, 15 year old basement wannabe ‘haxors’. Just don’t lose your unlocked phone…

      Google will win this space simply because of it’s ubiquity. Unfortunately, it is probably something that should be done by the government due to the fact that money exchanges are taking place and Google is quite possibly an unwanted third party to these transactions, but they can’t do it because all the engineers who can even conceive of it already work for Google.

  26. Rinaldo says:

    To believe the leftists would clamp down on their buddies in Big Tech is beyond mega naive. Its just more BS.

    • Petunia says:

      It’s not a clamp down, it’s a shakedown, to keep them in line and improve the fundraising budgets.

      • historicus says:

        Petunia…
        Yep..
        The straw dog..the threat…and then they hold their hands out..
        the lobbyists will be spreading money like crazy….
        Just like the threat to drastically raise the capital gains tax…..threat…then the money changes hands…then you dont hear about it again.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      The GOP has always been the largest recipient of corporate money. The Obama campaign broke records for the amount raised in small individual amounts.

  27. JGo says:

    I don’t know that we will win with antitrust. We broke up AT&T into the baby bells and since then they have mostly been bought up again by AT&T. It is in a weaker state, but time and changes in the market may have brought them to the same place.

    We broke up big oil and proceeded to give them billions in subsidies over the years, while they made billions in profits. It’s hard to say the American tax payer won there. Cheap oil brought benefits, but a lot of problems too. Would we have have had to build so many highways and infrastructure along with continual maintenance, if prices had been higher. We won’t ever know but it should be part of the discussion.

    When I look at breaking up big tech I see several things:
    1. Look at how many pensions, 401k’s, and mutual funds hold FAANG stocks. Breaking them up will decimate their stock price along with the value of a lot of retirements.
    2. Tech companies are either growing or dying. In order to get investment to serve more people they need to show growth. If the government limits their size, then growth will need to come from fees, where they start charging the end users and change the nature of how the internet works. Which might get people off of their phones, so maybe there is a benefit.
    3. The size of the tech company will be limited by how fast it can build data centers. Right now the big five are in a mad dash to build and are barely keeping up with demand. As demand accelerates they will run out of land, power, water, and or skilled labor to build and run a new data center, at that point things will break like a black hole collapsing into itself. Until that time the smaller tech companies will struggle with growth and profit due to infrastructure. The government is looking to AWS or Microsoft in order to build its own data center.

    • Old School says:

      US seems to be in a big tech bubble. Big tech doesn’t do much for the basics of life. Most importantly cost of constructing a house, building out water and sewer, and electrical generation and grid network and roads and bridges. These are the necessary things of life that the digital world can’t do too much about.

    • Petunia says:

      I don’t dispute that US tech has been on a data collection binge for decades now. The problem is still sorting through the haystack. OK, they know everything about you, sort of, but is it reliable, not really. Just exchanging phones regularly between family members is enough to FU everybody’s profiles.

  28. Mojer says:

    I am convinced that the Democrats are well aware of the danger of the great monopolies on the internet when one day Trump who was still president was cut off from any electronic communication with all his followers, certainly this fact of showing the world who holds the new true power of information was certainly the alarm sign for the Democratic party not to end up in the same way in the next electoral campaign. A strong power certainly does not love a new power that takes exclusive information to itself so here it is a matter of life or death between the two powers and personally I hope that this totally dictatorial power of electronic information will be dismantled for the sake of our already shaky democracy and Wolf greatly delighted for publishing this primal information.

  29. John Traynor says:

    Thanks Wolf, I’ve been subscribed for a while now and I think this is the most important post I’ve read. If Biden can tackle this it will be an important legacy. Big tech and big corporate in general is destroying the competitiveness of the Western economies. M&A policy needs changed also.

  30. YuShan says:

    I really hope this has legs. However, with congress and media owned by these same monopolistic powers I am not very optimistic. But we should cheer everybody who takes genuine steps to address this problem.

  31. Brendan says:

    This thread is unbelievable. These people work really hard at bringing us the information on this site. Cut them some slack for f’s sake. Or go get a friggin job or hobby that doesn’t include trolling others in the internet.

  32. Max Power says:

    Over the past three decades S&P500 operating margins on a long term basis have risen steadily from an average of under 6% to 13% (WSJ article, 8-Aug-21). Although some of this is a reflection of the reduction in the cost of borrowing, such a sharp, consistent rise (with margins more than doubling) is surely related to greater corporate concentration and a reduction in market competition – something which hurts all consumers and reduces innovation. The free market works best when competition is vibrant and ongoing – not when stymied by a select group of corporate behemoths.

  33. David Hall says:

    I thought Joe might be middle of the road. Big government is a monopoly seizing rental properties, making negative comments about corporations vital to the U.S. economy and creating trillions of dollars of more debt. I am disappointed. Inflation will take and not give back.

  34. NJB says:

    Really interesting and well written article on an important topic. It was also interesting to get Wolf’s insights on how Google is abusing its monopolistic powers. Tougher anti-trust laws are coming – and not before time. China is leading the way and other countries will follow.

  35. Mike R says:

    When someone kicks the snot out of Google, Facebook, and the ever malicious Twitter, And mashes them all up into far less harmful pieces, then Ill be impressed. The current administration however and the Democratic Party especially has benefitted heavily from the wide ranging and incredibly abusive power those 3 have wrought. All 3 have wiped out and shredded numerous parts of our constitution. All three have execs and management that long ago should have been imprisoned for life. Period.

  36. Micheal Engel says:

    1) NDX monthly DM #18. Exogenous causes might send it down.
    2) NDX monthly never breached the cloud since 2009.
    3) There was never a monthly buy setup, after a bearish flip.
    4) NDX monthly might flip in Sept/ Oct.
    5) NDX might get a bullish setup in late next year.
    6) .
    7) If there will be no sell setup, late next year, the downturn will last for about two years.
    8) DXY monthly might bounce off Mar 2009 fractal zone..

  37. Cobalt Programmer says:

    The usual commenters, who already written the comments about inflation, evacuation, glory of old cars, lament about stock market and the lazy generation are disappointed. We can paste in another section.

    1. Digital world operates under a different assumptions than the real world. Some of the rules like, closing down a store is not similar to shutting down a website.
    2. Even though there are three big car companies in US, they operate like a cartel. They will come together and fix the new developments.
    3. Think about oil industry. Giant nations and OPEC regularly “fixes” prices. Can any other industry has the approval to fix prices?
    4. I used some alternative platforms such as duckduckgo search engine, brave browser, dailymotion video site and others but they suck. Not even close.
    5. Even our former President started “parlor” or some other alternative platform. He did not succeed. The reach was so low and never took off.
    6. Not only antitrust, the mega-software giants also censor opinions. Mostly left-leaning, feminist voices are heard. Others disappear. This is similar to no shoes no service.
    7. These companies have deep pockets and long hands. All our laments will fall on deaf ears.
    8. The alternative platforms are so small. Their servers cannot handle the huge loads of viewers and subscribers. If a huge population shifts to the newer alternatives, then the pages will crash.

    • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

      The fight is real. It seems like the flight of Icarus. These companies get big, bigger then massive. Agreed it seems like a useless battle to try to find a competitive alternative that isn’t utter junk. Anything new a good that begins to pickup steam is either bought outright or pushed out by the monopolies. Our greatest hope is the government to step in and break-up the perceived problem companies.

      My world is voice, telecom and call centers. Last successful act that I can recall is the divestiture of Ma Bell. That worked until it didn’t but it shook up the industry and had teeth.

      AT&T was actually broken up by the government in 1984

    • Micheal Engel says:

      Cobalt therapy.

    • GotCollateral says:

      > 4. I used some alternative platforms such as duckduckgo search engine, brave browser, dailymotion video site and others but they suck. Not even close.

      Very subjective, but not a surprising perspective from useds (completely unwilling to contribute to building better open systems, just want use and complain). I personal thing chrome is trash compared to my forked version of ff. But hey, at least I’m willing to admit that this is subject compared to others with a myriad of excuses as to why they are unwilling to do something…

      > 6. Not only antitrust, the mega-software giants also censor opinions. Mostly left-leaning, feminist voices are heard. Others disappear. This is similar to no shoes no service.

      Yeah “disappear” to their own mastodon instances, irc, decentralized/centralized alternatives…

      > 8. The alternative platforms are so small. Their servers cannot handle the huge loads of viewers and subscribers. If a huge population shifts to the newer alternatives, then the pages will crash.

      Why must everyone crowd into one single place and make it easy for such a place rule over them? Like you said:

      > Digital world operates under a different assumptions than the real world. Some of the rules like, closing down a store is not similar to shutting down a website.

      Nor will it be similar to trying to shut down a decentralized network of node that will inevitably carry over some of this power the behemoths have over useds now simply because they will be completely unwilling to learn to do/build/use something else, forever putting convenience above all else.

    • Micheal Engel says:

      1) PSJ monthly, the software ETF, the twenty years darling that never failed, had a bearish flip (in Aug 15). PSJ between T&K of the cloud.
      2) PSJ weekly + cloud : entered the cloud, < T&K.
      3) Cobalt is very old. Paste your software.

    • Raging Texan says:

      Hey cobalt if you are interested I took my Android phone

      1) Installed f-droid, an alternative to google play repository direct from the web.
      2) Downloaded replacements for every google app I could find on my phone, even calculator , dialer, text messaging, clock etc. lots of fun apps in there too.
      3) I was also able to install the fake privacy app signal direct from signal website because a few of my friends like it
      4) installed firefox for mobile direct from firefox website

      Then after I had replacements for all the default google apps, i went into settings and disabled almost every google app including google play store. The only google app I can’t disable yet is google play services because signal needs it and also google takes away wifi connectivity if I disable that one. Maybe I’ll uninstall signal and disable google play services tomorrow? haha.

      I have never put a google username or password into this phone and never used google play store on it. And the f-droid apps really have a lot of stuff you can try. There’s also alternate fdroid repositories and installing apps directly from .apk.

      Anyway this is a fun exercise I did all that without rooting the phone. I only got this Android phone for testing android apps I’m developing anyway. Otherwise I went with no smartphone for years.

      I also tested a flip phone recently but even that came with a mini-android operating system that wouldn’t let me adjust any settings at all and there was no way to install my own apps so it was really no fun. I think that because of this flip phones will cease to be an alternative for people trying to avoid google.

      I’m also interested in phones built completely without google in them, kinda shopping for those too. I’ve seen some online.

      • Raging Texan says:

        What I’m saying is there’s always been and probably always will be many alternatives. There are tons of alt chat and chat group apps on f-droid. And people can largely nullify influence of big tech in their lives if they want to fool with their devices.

        • Cobalt Programmer says:

          Sure, I will look in to them. As others said, all these things you told me are like speaking mandarin. Most of the people are not savvy as you are…

  38. The Nominalist says:

    I did not read the July 9 Executive Order but I wonder about:

    1. I assume the stocks of the tech monopolies will be splitted somehow – valuation?

    2. The cost of hiring new “suits” – mostly “chosen” 4 years College plus MBA, that is?

    3. Relocation of Pension Plans?

  39. Bead says:

    DuckDuckGo meets my needs so I’m surprised so few search with it. My unscientific survey indicates that younger folk have no expectation of privacy and are quite content being “sold” by the monopolies. So do we expect government to correct/reform an “ignorant” consumer choice?

    • David Hall says:

      Microsoft Bing is competition for Google Chrome, but they seem inferior in content display for those searching for information.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      I switched to DuckDuckGo a while ago and have been entirely satisfied.

      I am horrified every time I see what the younger generation considers acceptable loss of privacy.

      • georgist says:

        For the younger generation privacy is the least of their worries.
        If they had a pension, a paid off home and savings, probably they’d get around to it.
        Pity the older generation aren’t as “appalled” about handing them the first fall in living standards in 100 years. I guess as older people are on the other side of that trade it’s harder for them to voice concern.

        • Paulo says:

          It would help if younger folks just quit whining and started on a plan, one step at a time….like my folks did after WW2, or I and siblings did after the 70s rampant inflation and 80s jobs collapse.

          There are no guarantees for anyone of any generation. You just do your best and hope it all works out, day by day. A sense of humour is a great help.

          What is refreshing is to see older couples at dinner actually talking to each other, nary a phone in sight. Their only privacy concern is speaking too loud. :-)

        • georgist says:

          So more expensive housing, no pensions, just the usual boomer “eat less avocado”. The plan is to call it out, not just accept a worse life while we are robbed blind. Or is speaking out about being robbed of years of your life, working for the same home older people got for less time, “whining”?

          It’s very easy to continuously criticize the young, as your post did with a needless dig at the young. I guess that doesn’t count as “whining” when it’s a needless jibe, but real complaints about far bigger problems *are* “whining”? And you decide which is which, while the robbery rolls on.

        • Bead says:

          Another load of BS, “handing them the first fall…etc”

          I don’t approve of the central banks’ sacred inequality project but every politician running/standing is already completely corrupted by it. There is NO choice.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          Re “For the younger generation privacy is the least of their worries.”:

          My take is that they are common symptoms of the same underlying disease: the passive attitude and unwillingness to sacrifice for a cause.

          Doesn’t matter whether the issue is privacy, corporate-serf terms of employment, or house-price inflation, the attitude is always “don’t fight, don’t question the propaganda, just let the government & corporations own my life”.

          People who are willing to surrender their fundamental human rights can expect to be exploited.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      After I search something I’ll get pop ads related. I’ve never bought anything just kill them. I could not care less.

      Many of my inquiries take me to Wiki, which I find very good. I am enough of a specialist in some areas to know this.

      A lot of people worrying about big tech ‘spying’ on them, i.e., trying to figure out what ads to display, are borderline paranoid. The AI robot doesn’t care what you think, just what you might buy. In my case, nothing.

      A funny example of paranoid thinking: I know someone well who drinks a bit but always pays cash for his booze, because he thinks the e-record would affect his credit rating ! The guy is retired, juicy gov pension, owns his 600K house, has no need of credit…but if he did want to borrow a quick 50 K, the bank could not give a sh3t how he pays for his booze.

      But as I told him, sort of joking, don’t tell them why you pay cash, because they’ll think you are too nutty to lend to.

  40. wkevinw says:

    I really hope there is some kind of more effective regulation of these companies.

    I don’t know if it needs to be “breaking them up”, or putting regulations on them/removing their liability from their operations/posts.

    It’s amazing how terrible the SEC and FTC have been as these monopolies have grown. They really grew almost exactly by the same practices that the railroads and oil companies did 100 years ago. Am I the only one who reads history books?

    I hope the US Govt has some good legal people on this.

    • sunny129 says:

      She has already up supporters!

      – Rohit Chopra (ally of Ms. Khan) who is still a commissioner but has been nominated by Mr. Biden to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

      -Ms. Khan and her academic ally Tim Wu, who now works in the White House

  41. sunny129 says:

    Lina Khan was voted by 3-2 on a party line to be the chairman, a night mare for big corps! She wants to apply the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 to Amazon and other giants.

    Republicans may be under the illusion that Ms. Khan has only Big Tech in her sights. But the new powers she is claiming will give her authority to shoot at business in all directions. The FTC is supposed to be mainly an enforcement agency that polices bad practices, but Ms. Khan and her fellow Democratic commissioners want to expand its regulatory powers as well. Watch out for rules on privacy and data-collection for starters that will affect hundreds if not thousands of companies.
    WSJ

  42. Beardawg says:

    Obamacare was divisive, but it was legislation, and an attempt to modify a system that a majority of people felt was jacked up. 12 years later, many stones can be thrown at O-Care, but the critical pieces remain. Having a split congress after its implementation and a 2 term POTUS kept it in place. Trump bloviated and successfully rescinded the tax penalty for non-participation and most felt that was righteous – but the meat of O-Care survives.

    This megalopoly A-Trust issue has been brewing awhile (like runaway Healthcare costs in the past). If it can rise to the level of legislation OR the Justice Dept declares it illegal per existing statutes, AND Dems stay in power beyond 4 years, THEN the landscape will likely change.

    If Reds take over in 2022 and/or 2024, whatever progress made will likely be halted and / or reversed, based on political principle – it’s the nature of our system.

    • Bead says:

      Perhaps you’re too pessimistic. Biden hasn’t reversed anything close to all Trump policy and the elephants aren’t especially fond of Great Big Tech.

  43. polecat says:

    ‘mendacious grift’.

    “SPELLCHECK” …. what • a • joke

  44. Auldyin says:

    Fantastic article and comments.
    I don’t know where to start, here at the end, as usual.
    We’re getting into philosophy. No prosperous society can exist unless it is built on a valid philo base. Huge tech changes eg the railways, impact established philos and take years to work through. The internet is the biggest tech revolution ever and it has never been properly accommodated by changes in philosophy.
    It appears that that may be starting to happen now and as W says, that is a huge and belated development.
    My Stats lecturer started the rot for me, years ago, when he said co-incidences very probably aren’t.
    W mentioned China which started a new 5yr plan a short while ago, part of which, was to re-focus large companies to the service of the people, sme’s and the country rather than pure commercial self-interest. This was interpreted by the Western investors as a commercial crack-down and they marked down their prices in the standard Wall Street fear of Govt. A priceless comment was that the young should not have their educational development impaired by ‘meritless’ personality cultures on social media. In other words they don’t want dumb kids.
    Don’t believe in co-incidences?
    Tim Wu (the White House’s special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy).
    Just sayin’ as usual.

    • georgist says:

      I may have spent too much time on social media, I don’t understand what you are saying. Can you spell it out?

      • Auldyin says:

        G
        Sorry about that, I’ll give it a go.
        Tech revolutions, when they are young, are very much on, a take it or leave it basis for the public, and there’s no harm in a supplier making a fortune on his product. Think Microsoft way back in the 70’s. They were a specialist little niche outfit for a small customer audience(who cares). As time goes on, successful tech becomes more and more, not a take it or leave it issue, but an essential need for society, again think Microsoft now (a huge multi-national behemoth with influence all over the World). The philosophical question becomes, should a company be treated the same way by Govt whether it supplies ‘wants’ or ‘needs’. Nearly everything started as wants and became needs. Piped water supply, energy, transportation and now internet and smart phones, etc. etc. Is it morally right, from the point of view of ‘society’ as a whole that ‘some individuals’ should be able to greatly profit from and control the supply of needs, or should that be subject to legitimate control by Govt?
        The West and USSR fought that philosophical battle until ‘the wall’ came down and the West claimed victory and went on to double down on the ‘individual profit’ motive for societal good.
        Roll on to 2008, when something went very badly wrong with the Western model (financialisation??) and has yet to be properly dealt with 12 yrs later.
        The Chinese, with their own political system, did not adopt the western ‘individual’ model but instead operated capitalism with a guiding hand. ie the invisible hand was aided by the Govt hand. Unlike USSR, the Chinese system has been enormously successful in lifting millions out of poverty and turning China into an economic superpower.
        Coming up to date and my comment above, I believe China has studied what happened to the Western philosophy and has become concerned by the huge wealth and power disparities that have arisen in western societies and they don’t want it to happen to them. I believe they have identified the influences of huge online tech giants on society as something they need to control to prevent the owners of these tech giants directing the nature and direction of future society. I believe they have set about ensuring that these companies work in the interests of the country (as determined by the Govt) and not in the interests of oligarchs and their wishes.
        This approach is anathema to the West and they have started a campaign to isolate the ‘bad’ dictatorships from the ‘good’ democracies.
        Unfortunately, the problem for the West is that the Chinese philosophy is clearly more effective at meeting the needs of the mass of ordinary people than the current western philosophy. Ruling out war which would be insane, the West needs to do something fundamental like removing big tech and other vested influence from Govt, to make it’s system competitive for the needs of ordinary people otherwise the 21st century will be China’s. IMO
        Maybe Mr Wu will give Ole Joe a heads up.

        • jon says:

          Good summary. Thanks.
          I don’t think US Govt would do something of this sort as most of the lawmakers are in the pockets of Oligarch.

    • Nick Kelly says:

      ‘The internet is the biggest tech revolution ever…’

      It is big but this is an example of people thinking their present is more important than their forefathers past.

      Nothing can happen without the Industrial Revolution.
      I’d put the steam engine ahead of the net. Fast travel without exertion by man or beast. By late 1800’s a train can go 80 mph. By 1900 the work being done in the UK by steam was equal to 40 million human slaves.

      Next is electricity, later especially AC, and the telegraph. There were no time zones before that because there was no communicating with places where the time of day was different.

      Next radio and how soon we forget the first amplifier: the tube.
      The first time people heard a voice coming out of a box from someone miles away they aren’t just impressed, they couldn’t believe it. And TV worked with tubes.

      Then the transistor, and of course the microprocessor is a bunch of transistors. But to backtrack to the tube amp, WWII with all that radio and radar was fought without the transistor.

      So there is competition for biggest tech revolution.

  45. DanS86 says:

    When the product is “free” how do you define consumer harm under the current law and regulations? Well, first realize that the product is the user and customer is the advertisers. Let’s forget for now the abuse of the product. Advertisers are paying inflated prices because Google has cultivated market dominance through first-mover advantage and network effects. From this point of view its a simple anti-trust case. This clearly shows also the “free” product model does not work. Who’d a thunk it???

    • wkevinw says:

      ” “free” product model does not work. Who’d a thunk it???”

      Yep. The cash flow comes from advertisers, or sales of user info, or stock and bond market- NOT from the customer transaction.

      Fundamentally, I think the necessary cash flow is from the stock and bond market. If we had a long lasting bear market, these dysfunctional and zombie companies would cease to exist.

      In the ’80’s, the double dip recession was caused by the Fed (with blessing from the govt/pols), saying “enough inflation”. They monkey hammered the markets and the economy. It seems like that needs to happen again.

  46. jon says:

    Like the topic but wake me up the Govt does things about to improve upon the situation. I see nothing being done. Just all talk no walk.
    I can say with 100% confidence that nothing would change. As JPowell would say: these dominance by big corps are either non existent or are transitory!

  47. NBay says:

    Anyone who didn’t copy this excellent article is on the “extra greedy other side” or remains poorly informed. It took me a long time to put it’s content together piecemeal. And I didn’t realize Bork’s full part (and will research it), thought phony Nobel prize winner Milty was the main justification for “consumer protection” and trickle down, but it was just the Econ part, and was just one part of the program. Newcomer (to me) Cambric Finish’s redo and other big guns like Nick Kelly added even more in the comments. Simplified goal was return to the Gilded Age, for a few. They hated both Roosevelts.

    My guess is the Heritage Foundation and it’s ilk also had a big part, as the Beats and the “counterculture” of the 50s-60’s scared the hell out of MANY, (“black messiah” and all..the music…white kids wearing Free Huey T-shirts, massive demonstrations, and later the Weathermen types) along with J Edgar, the ever greedy “Christian Right” leaders, and of course the talk radio creeps, out to make bucks by stirring up any kind of shit they want to.

    My real love/bias is Biology, but I can’t ignore culture, or even speak and think without being a part of one. My goal is just situational awareness, as required for most all living things, and even “living things” is open to a lot of Bio-debate…just words.
    Word.

Comments are closed.