Antitrust regulation and economic concentration are suddenly everywhere in progressive thinking about economic policy.
The storm actually started to build last year with a keynote speech from Elizabeth Warren at a think tank event, a policy brief from the Obama administration's Council of Economic Advisers, a Center for American Progress policy brief arguing for reinvigorated antitrust enforcement, an October Hillary Clinton speech promising to deliver tougher enforcement if she became president, and a flurry of Senatorial denunciations of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
This flurry of activity, little noticed at the time, broke into the mainstream when an enhanced focus on competition policy — completely with a call for a rethinking of one of the intellectual underpinnings of the past generation of antitrust enforcement — found its way to the center of congressional Democrats' proposed "Better Deal" for the American economy. Democrats hope this plan, which they announced in July, will be a guiding document as they take on Republicans in midterms and beyond.
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Then came the falling out between Barry Lynn, a key intellectual driver of this movement, and his bosses at the New America Foundation — the dispute centered on Google's financial support for New America's programs and Lynn's forceful criticisms of the technology giant.
Democrats are both united in their newfound interest in antitrust measures and also divided on exactly what a reinvigoration entails. That's in part because at least five different ideas are floating around that often get mushed together under the same broad heading. These are both conceptually distinct notions with different economic implications and, critically, different paths to implementation.
Here's a guide that should help clarify.