We may be at the start of a new era of accountability for Facebook and other monopolies. Corporate concentration has increased over the past several decades at an alarming rate, and Americans are living with the result: stagnant wages, decreased entrepreneurship, and outsized political power for the most powerful.
A few colleagues, friends, and I put together a reading list to provide more depth to those who want to learn more about antitrust after reading this New York Times essay on the need to break up Facebook. This list is modeled off of a similar one on the Green New Deal provided by New Consensus. This list is meant to appeal to the curious-minded, regardless of political persuasion or economic or legal background knowledge.
Where to start with such a big topic? If you want a great primer, start with The Curse of Bigness. This book is short — it fits snugly in a coat pocket — and accessible to anyone with basic political knowledge. Written by lawyer and technologist Tim Wu, it provides context on the role antitrust law has played in our political and economic history. It sets out a clear and cogent case that antitrust has always been about holding the most powerful economic players in our country accountable for their excesses.
After reading Wu’s book, go deep on the link between inequality and antitrust in a paper called “Market Power and Inequality.” This is a sweeping and comprehensive paper in the Harvard Law Review documenting the problem of the concentration of power. Its authors, Lina Khan and Sandeep Vahesan, have gone out of their way to make the writing accessible and lucid.
While you’re reading articles in law reviews (your friends will love you for it), check out Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox in the Yale Law Review, also by Lina Khan. It lays out the complex and diverse array of problems in Amazon’s case — not only its market dominance and size, but the fact that it controls the platform and makes many of the products it sells.
If you’re more of a listener than a reader, NPR’s Planet Money did a three-part series on antitrust that is informative and entertaining:
For a book-length, broad take on how concentration is affecting the heart of American capitalism, check out Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn’s book The Myth of Capitalism:
History buffs will want to get more context on the theory and approach of Louis Brandeis, the Supreme Court Justice, who is well-known for his commitment to ensuring accountability for big business. There’s a large Brandeis biography, which I confess to having not yet read. Instead, I spent a long weekend with his lively and enlightening speeches and letters, collected and edited by Phillipa Strum, in a volume called Brandeis on Democracy:
While you’re at it, check out the legendary journalist Steve Coll’s play-by-play account of the years leading up to the AT&T break-up in 1982, called The Deal of the Century:
There are dozens of other think tank reports and economic papers on the topic — too many to list. Some of the best are the Roosevelt Institute’s New Rules 2021 framework, these three papers on the relationship between market power and firm investment, and a speech given by Jason Furman, Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, just before he left office.
Finally, check out Sabeel Rahman’s book Democracy against Domination. While not exclusively focused on antitrust, it makes a strong case for the importance of mass participation in the political and economic order, something which powerful monopolies stifle:
Would love other suggestions and thoughts you may have!
One additional resource, I should have included: A paper by Ganesh Sitaraman, a professor at Vanderbilt Law, arguing that we need to restructure antitrust laws and agencies “to enhance the government’s ability to enforce antitrust laws more effectively and more transparently.”