By Matthew Lane, Project DisCo
This year is a big election year, and antitrust has proven to be a surprisingly hot topic that could become a regular feature on the campaign trail. This likely means lots of antitrust policy discussion, but not necessarily technocratic antitrust discussion. These discussions will be dominated by political needs, and will focus on what antitrust should look like rather than what it currently is.
Antitrust policy discussions will also need to be simplified for non-experts. Antitrust policy is, at its core, a very simple idea. It’s about supporting competition by policing monopolistic and collusive practices. However, much of our modern thinking about antitrust takes into account the impact of counterintuitive results and unintentional consequences from under- or over-enforcement. These are harder to explain, they had to be learned over years of lessons from enforcement and advances in economic thinking. I expect that little of this nuance will come through in political discussions about antitrust. However, this simplified conversation will make it easier for what CCIA President Matt Schruers calls “swampetition”, or attempting to beat rivals through political influence rather than through the marketplace. We’ve already seen some evidence of this.
That is not to say that antitrust policy in 2020 will be bad, much can be gained from both healthy debate over core antitrust principles and simplifying ideas while retaining their essential values. However, the price of this healthy debate will likely be an increased risk of swampetition and unintended consequences.
In addition to this political focus, here are some other things to watch for in 2020.