If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) or who runs it. But that would be a mistake.
You’ll see no Hollywood movies depicting the unelected bureaucrats in this agency, but that doesn’t make them any less notorious. Rather, the FTC holds a tremendous amount of power over the market place, and currently, it’s run by someone who… literally hates the market place.
I’m talking about the FTC’s Chair, Lina Khan, who many have long-recognized as one of the most extremist members of the Biden Administration. Recently, she appeared at an event held by the Economic Security Project (ESP)—a far-left organization that rejects “incrementalism” and wants to “restructure the economy.” The group also says “the free market is dead.”
The event was co-hosted by Law and Political Economy (LPE), an organization that claims to “work to understand the relationship between market supremacy and racial, gender, and economic injustice; to articulate the relationship between capitalism and devaluation of social and ecological reproduction; and to explore the distinctive ways that law gives shape to and legitimates neoliberal capitalism, ranging from dynamics of financialization to the relation between the carceral state and capitalism.”
Sounds totally normal and not fringy at all, right?
As a member of government with a jaw-dropping amount of power over the marketplace, Khan’s association with these groups is troubling enough. And it’s worth mentioning this is a relationship that goes back years, yet was conveniently left out of her Senate confirmation questionnaire. Surely Senators would have found it relevant that someone in the running to be FTC Chair held relationships, and by association, similar views as these organizations? Or perhaps not, as this is the very person both Republicans like Sen. Josh Hawley and Democrats like Sen. Amy Klobuchar are currently working to give even more power over the market through their antitrust bills like the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.
During her July keynote speech to the groups, Khan said it was “an honor to be here with so many scholars and thinkers whose work I so respect and have learned so much from.”
She went on to praise LPE’s “clarity of vision in re-centering the role of law in shaping markets and economic outcomes,” in a nod to the central planning goals she shares with the group. She continued, “we are still fairly early in the implementation and execution phase, but I think the anti-monopoly research and scholarship that communities like LPE and ESP have produced and cultivated has laid out a very, very solid foundation, being in my current role on the enforcement and policy side of the ledger.”
Khan went on to mention the “paradigm shifting” work through a “reconceiving of antitrust law as a mechanism for allocating coordination rights.”
If the mainstream media did its job whatsoever, this story would be front-page news. Here you have a woman at the helm of the marketplace literally arguing against the very companies she’s tasked with regulating and arguing for centralized control over that marketplace (cough, socialism).
She’s tipping her hat here. Anyone who has followed antitrust law for long knows it’s a Trojan horse, and always has been. The reality is that, even in a mixed economy like we have here in the US, monopolies are exceedingly rare, are usually only created by government favoritism in the first place, and do not last even when they are found. Competition is king, and we don’t need the government to do the market’s job for it.
Instead, antitrust has traditionally been used by the left to force companies into self-regulating and changing their behavior for the whims of politicians. In the 1980s, we recognized this was actually, unsurprisingly, bad for consumers. And thus came the consumer welfare standard, which is how judges have determined antitrust matters in the resulting decades. It’s pretty good legal jurisprudence that basically just says a company must actually be a monopoly in the first place, and must be using that monopoly power in a way that harms consumers, before the government can take action against it.
But while the consumer welfare standard has been very good for consumers, resulting in lower prices and more innovation in the market, it has been very bad for central planners who merely want to use it to have more control of private industry. This is why people like Khan, Klobuchar, and Hawley are working overtime to reform our antitrust laws and get rid of this standard.
Economic scholars like Art Laffer have warned such foolish, short-sighted notions will increase inflation and actively harm Americans. And the American people have proven to be more economically-literate than most of their leaders, ranking the regulation of Big Tech under antirust among the lowest of their priorities.
It’s time we have hard conversations with anyone claiming to be a capitalist about support for these antitrust bills. No one should want to give Lina Khan and her ilk more power over the marketplace, and if you fall for it, you’re being sold a cheaper bill of goods than anything you’ll find on Amazon Prime.
Hannah Cox is a fellow at Net Choice, a non-profit free speech and free markets advocacy group.