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The European Union Just Showed Democrats How To Take On Monopolies

(HUFFINGTON POST) Alexander C. Kaufman , Daniel Marans, July 4, 2017 — European antitrust officials slapped Google with a record $2.7 billion fine on Tuesday for manipulating search results to favor its own services.

The ruling, which came after a seven-year investigation, exposes what critics described as the failure of U.S. regulators to rein in monopolies at home, forcing their victims to seek recourse in the European Union.

“The U.S. does not do antitrust regulation,” Matt Stoller, an antitrust expert at the nonpartisan New America Foundation’s Open Markets program, told HuffPost. “That’s the key difference. [Europeans] actually do antitrust.”

But what is most surprising about America’s kid-gloves approach to antitrust policy is that it is not limited to Republicans, who are often open about their philosophical objections to regulating monopolistic behavior. In recent decades, influential Democrats have proved just as, if not more, willing to let companies with concentrated financial power off the hook, experts told HuffPost.

“It would be hard to be worse than the [Obama] administration on this,” Stoller said. “The failure of leadership was incredibly profound. That said, it could always get worse, but I don’t think we know enough.”

A monopoly is a company that controls such a large share of an industry that it has the power to dictate prices or engage in other behavior that limits competition. Sometimes companies without sole monopoly power conspire to control prices, forming what are known as cartels.

For many Americans, the word “monopoly” conjures images of robber baron-owned railroad and steel conglomerates from the turn of the 20th century. The trust-busting policies of former President Theodore Roosevelt put an end to them, a certain popular wisdom goes, giving us the thriving, competitive economy we have today.

In reality, as Stoller laid out in a  in The Atlantic in October, cutting monopoly business and financial power down to size was the product of constant battles with big money interests that picked up significantly during the New Deal of the 1930s.

Responding to the banking abuses that led to the Great Depression, populist Democrats, often from rural parts of the country, battled the monopolies of their era in order to protect their constituent farmers and local businesses. Antitrust legislation allowed for companies that grew too large or abused their size to be fined or broken up, and Congress, together with the executive branch’s Federal Trade Commission, often put those laws to work.

Source: The European Union Just Showed Democrats How To Take On Monopolies | HuffPost