A return to 1912: The antitrust center will not hold

Matt Stoller discusses the current ideological shift in antitrust law, relating it to lax enforcement of antitrust and the resulting radical concentration of corporate power over the last forty years. Such power now manifests itself as overt authoritarianism and right-wing nationalism worldwide, but it is, in fact, a result of policy choices by both the center-left and center-right on how to organize power within markets. The decline of enforcement has discredited the antitrust bar and industrial-organizational economics profession, and means that the direction democratic societies choose to address corporate power will be in the hands of voters, as it was in the early part of the 20th century.

In the crises of the 1930s, one of the great investigations in American history was done by a pugnacious working-class lawyer, Ferdinand Pecora, who embarrassed the lords of Wall Street in 1933 as the lead counsel for the Senate Banking Committee. A few years later, as a judge, Pecora observed why countries all over the world were taking the road to fascism or Communism. “In other lands democratic government has abdicated to dictatorship,” he said, “not because men no longer wished to be free, but because democratic governments become impotent to deal with economic problems.” Today, we are in a similar situation as those who, from the late 19th century until World War II, were engaged in a set of violent political struggles to figure out how to manage the power of industrialization.

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  • Open Markets Institute (Washington, DC)


Matt Stoller, A return to 1912: The antitrust center will not hold, November 2019, Concurrences N° 4-2019, Art. N° 90939,

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