From Christopher Mims’ “How the FTC Is Reshaping the Antitrust Argument Against Tech Giants” in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal:
Since mid-1980s Reagan-era reforms of antitrust law, the test for whether a company is a monopolist has been whether its dominance harms consumers—usually through higher prices or shoddy goods. It has been hard to make that charge stick against companies that offer many of their services free, like Google and Meta Platforms (née Facebook), or at (usually) competitive prices, like Amazon; or that take a cut of what seems to be a big, competitive market, like Apple does with apps.
The FTC, under its Biden-appointed chairwoman, Lina Khan, has been shifting the terms of the argument, focusing less on harm to consumers or even rivals, and more on how the bigness of Big Tech harms companies that are, in essence, its partners.
To understand, we have to look at an unusual word the FTC has used of late: “monopsony.” If a monopoly is a market with one dominant seller, a monopsony is its inverse, a market where one buyer is pre-eminent. Monopolists can gouge consumers. A monopsonist has the same power over sellers.
My take: The article goes on to ask whether Khan has the tools or the staff to enforce her antitrust doctrine. It’s ironic that it came out of a thesis she wrote about Amazon and the Apple books case.