The Utah Statement: Reviving Antimonopoly Traditions for the Era of Big Tech
Over the last several years, a movement to revive the anti-monopoly traditions of the United States has gained increasing momentum and even retaken its place in presidential political debate. While popularly known as a movement to “break up big tech,” it is really a movement that reacts to the economic policies of the last 40 years. For we have, over that time, weakened and nearly abandoned the anti-monopoly tradition that, in various forms, has been part of the U.S. system since the Declaration of Independence and the original anti-monopoly tea-party protest. The result has been decades of economic consolidation across industries like agriculture, finance, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications. It is a reaction also to the consolidation of tech into just a few platforms, like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
We have been left with an economy dominated by well-protected oligopolies who maintain high profits, low levels of investment, and stagnant wages. Employers have gained disproportionate power over their workers, thanks to a weakening of labor law, declining unionization, and business models that coerce and restrict workers. The policies have also contributed to the widening gap between rich and poor, and the widespread economic dissatisfaction and anger that is a hallmark of our times.
The anti-monopoly movement is also a response to the undeniable sense that concentrated private interests have an unfairly disproportionate influence over government and Congress. The legislature regularly refuses to do what even supermajorities of citizens want, like control drug prices or provide paid maternity leave. Excessively concentrated industries, in other words, have become a threat to the basic idea of representative democracy.
The simple premise of anti-monopoly revival is that concentrated private power has become a menace, a barrier to widespread prosperity, and an indefensible division of the spoils of progress and economic security that yields human flourishing. It has sparked a wealth of new articles, books, studies and symposia. (A reading list can be found here.) And the revival movement has attracted important political…