Bork’s fundamental belief was that if you stared really hard at anti-monopoly laws like the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act, you’d find that their drafters never really worried about monopolies. Rather, they only worried about harmful monopolies—which is to say, instances in which companies do something nakedly anticompetitive in a way that results in an immediate increase in prices. Bork’s big idea was that unless you could prove that some monopolistic crime would raise near-term consumer prices, it shouldn’t be prosecuted.
And now, after 40 years of non-enforcement of monopoly laws, the world has:
· five giant publishers
· four giant movie studios
· three giant record labels
· two giant brewers
· one giant eyewear maker
One of the main reasons we are where we are is because Google was not regulated early.
There’s a Silicon Valley consensus that Google survived its infancy because Microsoft elected not to strangle it in its cradle, the way the Beast of Redmond had done with Netscape and other upstarts of the previous decade. This forbearance is attributed to the Justice Department’s long (and ultimately unsuccessful) antitrust action over the Windows monopoly. The theory goes that Microsoft had its predatory spirit tamed after a decade-long regulatory siege and was frightened of what an all-out assault on Google might provoke.
Doctorow suggests that today’s start-ups are really just glorified hiring processes:
Today, the best a budding technologist can hope for is to do a fake startup whose “product” exists only to demonstrate that they and their team can successfully complete an ambitious project. These post-grad practicums are the precursor to an “aqui-hire,” when a large firm buys out a startup solely to get a proven team, shutting down its products after the acquisition. Venture capital is now a glorified talent agency, and the “acquisition” is split between “investors” and “founders” in lieu of a finder’s fee and a hiring bonus.