“Follow the Money” - Mapping issues with digital platforms into actionable theories of harm

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The policy debate around “digital platforms” has been increasingly animated (particularly in the US) by calls for direct intervention by law makers to bring about major change (including structural breakups) on the basis that the antitrust tool is just too narrow and ineffectual to deal with their “vast power” in its multiple negative manifestations. The sentiment that antitrust is limited in its reach is voiced also by veterans like Carl Shapiro, cautioning that antitrust enforcement cannot deal with a lot of the big societal issues we are worried about (...). “It is not clear” – perhaps. But “more competition” has a lot of properties we like. Less competition is unquestionably bad. And the limitations of antitrust should not provide a justification on the one hand for a view that it is so blunt it needs to be superseded by regulation or legislation; and on the other, for a view that it is a “pure” discipline that can only be applied in very precise and limited settings, based on careful precedent, and no more.