Should We Disrupt Antitrust Law?

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Competition policy in the digital era and in times of populism is a hot topic. Politicians like Elizabeth Warren in the US and certain Europarliamentarians want to “move fast and break things”, that is, speed up enforcement and split up Big Tech firms. Academics of the “new Brandeis school” call for stronger enforcement and a rethinking of the goals of antitrust policy, and for more regulation. On the other side of the spectrum, the Siemens/Alstom decision led to a Franco-German call to loosen competition law to enable “European Champions” to emerge. EU Commissioner Vestager suggested that those proposals are contradictory. At the very least, there is a risk that competition law in digital and non-digital sectors will diverge. Like the child in Brecht’s Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis, antitrust policy risks being ripped apart by opposing forces. In the meantime, competition authorities experiment with new theories of harm in cases against Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, and conducting sector inquiries into digital markets.