The Biden administration, driven by the ideological designs of Chair Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Jonathan Kanter at the Department of Justice (DOJ), seems intent on rewriting the playbook on antitrust law. Their target? America’s tech businesses. But the implications of their maneuvers ripple far beyond Silicon Valley, echoing into the living rooms of everyday Americans, their wallets and their lifestyles.
At the heart of Kanter’s antitrust crusade is the DOJ’s ongoing trial against Google. In this case, Google’s alleged crime is being too popular and successful among consumers. But what the DOJ doesn’t understand is that Americans choose to use Google search because it is the best. In fact, the top search on Bing is Google.
So in its case, the DOJ isn’t pursuing the interests of consumers, as we seem pretty content with the search marketplace. American antitrust law, however, is focused on demonstrable consumer harm. This leads us to the underlying question: why is our DOJ wasting taxpayer money on this frivolous lawsuit?
It doesn’t stop with the DOJ, however. Amazon, another American success story, finds itself in the crosshairs of Biden’s FTC. The retail business’ meteoric rise to dominance isn’t an accident but rather a testament to its commitment to affordability, convenience and customer satisfaction. The days of flipping through catalogs, long check-out lines and struggling to find needed or desired products are fading memories. With a few clicks, our needs are met at our doorsteps. In essence, Amazon has revolutionized consumer convenience. Instead of celebrating this success story for American consumers and the marketplace, the Biden administration sees it as a problem.
Through these two cases and political attacks on American tech companies, Biden’s administration seeks to overhaul antitrust enforcement for American business as a whole, reimagining the government’s role not as a guardian of consumer welfare but as an overzealous arbiter of market “fairness”.
And who defines this fairness? Enter FTC Chair Lina Khan. Her claim to fame? A law review article that admonished Amazon for having low prices. Now, Khan is wielding the gavel of regulatory authority, keen on applying her “fairness” doctrine across all industries.
This is a multi-pronged assault on Americans’ individual power and influence over companies in the market. Khan is cracking down on mergers, reducing corporate agility and potentially leading to higher prices. There seems to be a perception that success in business is almost sinful, weaponizing the regulatory apparatus against the likes of Twitter, Meta and anyone else that doesn’t bend to the ire of regulators. It’s an alarming departure from American free-market principles. Instead of championing success, the Biden administration seems keen on penalizing it.
From this, a glaring disconnect is evident. While Khan may believe Amazon is the sole shopping behemoth, most Americans have an abundance of choices. We float between Amazon, Walmart, Target and more, driven by deals, convenience or brand loyalty. Yet, to some in this administration, this abundance is the very problem. Their viewpoint is that Americans are suffering from too much choice. This in essence unveils the true agenda – a belief that a few, unelected regulators can micromanage the American economy, placing ideology over consumer benefit.
Consider the Illumina-Grail merger. Historically, such a merger would have breezed through the regulatory approval process. Under Biden’s enforcers, it was challenged. While the FTC eventually lost and the merger was allowed to proceed, the chilling effect was evident: the CEO exited. The message was loud and clear from regulators: more business is bad, and you will face retribution even if your actions are legal and indeed pro-consumer.
This new approach to antitrust isn’t about protection; it’s about control. And it doesn’t seem to prioritize consumers or American values. Instead, it appears like a troubling turn down the road to economic authoritarianism. Successful companies should not live in fear of retribution but should be celebrated for their contributions to American innovation and consumer welfare.
The outcomes of the lawsuits against Google and Amazon remain to be seen. But even if they fall through, the administration’s intent has unfortunately sent a message to businesses of all sizes that success, innovation and quality are secondary to a nebulous notion of “fairness.” And if this trend continues unchecked, it’s not just tech companies that will suffer; every business will feel the pain, and every American who’s enjoyed the fruits of their labor will, too.
Carl Szabo is the vice president and general counsel of NetChoice and a professor of internet law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.