The Antitrust Suit Against Facebook is Exactly How Antitrust Is *Supposed* To Work

Facebook’s chief counsel Jennifer Newstead responds to Antitrust Suit in “Lawsuits Filed by the FTC and the State Attorneys General Are Revisionist History“:

The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general today attack two acquisitions that we made: Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. These transactions were intended to provide better products for the people who use them, and they unquestionably did. Both of these acquisitions were reviewed by relevant antitrust regulators at the time. The FTC conducted an in-depth “Second Request” of the Instagram transaction in 2012 before voting unanimously to clear it. The European Commission reviewed the WhatsApp transaction in 2014 and found no risk of harm to competition in any potential market. Regulators correctly allowed these deals to move forward because they did not threaten competition.

Now, many years later, with seemingly no regard for settled law or the consequences to innovation and investment, the agency is saying it got it wrong and wants a do-over. In addition to being revisionist history, this is simply not how the antitrust laws are supposed to work.

I would not be so sure.

Writes philosopher Ayn Rand in her article “Choose Your Issues,” The Objectivist Newsletter, Jan. 1962, 1, on  the nature and purpose of the antitrust laws:

The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror. Yet these laws were created and, to this day, are upheld by the “conservatives,” as a grim monument to their lack of political philosophy, of economic knowledge and of any concern with principles. Under the Antitrust laws, a man becomes a criminal from the moment he goes into business, no matter what he does. For instance, if he charges prices which some bureaucrats judge as too high, he can be prosecuted for monopoly or for a successful “intent to monopolize”; if he charges prices lower than those of his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”; and if he charges the same prices as his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “collusion” or “conspiracy.” There is only one difference in the legal treatment accorded to a criminal or to a businessman: the criminal’s rights are protected much more securely and objectively than the businessman’s.

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