Monopoly Power

December 3, 2021 • Volume 31, Issue 42
Are new antitrust measures needed to restore competitive balance?
By Kathleen Day


A century after Congress passed a series of antitrust laws to rein in giant firms that dominated key industries, the same issues have re-emerged on the business landscape, from Silicon Valley to the industrial Midwest to Wall Street. Antitrust laws give government regulators legal tools to prevent companies from controlling a market in a way that harms the public by stifling competition or setting unfair prices. But how the government should enforce these laws has been hotly debated. Despite pockets of activity over the last 45 years, a laissez-fare philosophy has dominated antitrust policy among regulators and judges. Critics of this approach have gained the ear of President Biden, who wants to reinvigorate enforcement to curb activities he says limit wages and raise consumer costs. Two questions dominate the discussion: Can big companies amass too much power, exerting excessive control over markets and elections and, ultimately, undermining democracy? And has this contributed to a widening wealth and income gap?

Photo of a row of John Deere tractors in Santa Rosa, California, on May 20, 2016. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
Tractor maker John Deere wires its equipment so that only licensed dealers can repair many breakdowns, making fixes more expensive. Some argue that such practices are anti-competitive and should be curbed by more vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 03, 2021  Monopoly Power
Jun. 12, 1998  Antitrust Policy
Jul. 07, 1989  Do Antitrust Laws Limit U.S. Competitiveness?
Jan. 15, 1982  Business Mergers and Antitrust
Jan. 31, 1975  Antitrust Action
May 25, 1966  Business Concentration and Antitrust Laws
Feb. 19, 1947  Enforcement of the Antitrust Laws
Dec. 19, 1938  Anti-Trust Enforcement Through Consent Decrees
Nov. 24, 1930  Revision of the Antitrust Laws
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