Hunting the Big Five: Twenty-First Century Antitrust in Historical Perspective
Voices along the whole of the political spectrum are calling for heightened scrutiny of American information-technology companies, especially the Big Five of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. One of the principal themes of this uprising is that present-day antitrust policy, forged in the rusty era of steel, oil, and cars, is now obsolete. We are in the age of information, which ipso facto calls for new rules. A second animating theme is that the antitrust thinking of the Chicago School, which came to prominence in the last quarter of the last century, must be completely overthrown. Proponents of this new antitrust ground their arguments by returning to the historical roots of American antitrust policy. My contention, however, is that the new antitrust gets this history wrong. It both misconceives the nature of the competitive process and deliberately refuses to confront the political economy of antitrust. In so doing, it adopts some of the worst traits of the Chicago School it criticizes while manifesting few of that school’s many virtues.