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Tara Lachapelle

It's Not Just Amazon. Antitrust Needs a Revival.

Big Everything keeps stomping all over U.S. antitrust laws, but the Biden administration is determined to fix that.

President Joe Biden wants to re-energize antitrust enforcement.

President Joe Biden wants to re-energize antitrust enforcement.

Photographer: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Over the course of many years, U.S. laws meant to foster business competition have been beaten into submission, and the regulatory powers that be have been undermined — at times by their own doing. Now, President Joe Biden, his controversial antitrust enforcer Lina Khan and members of Congress are trying to restore and maybe even rewrite the nation’s antitrust laws. It’s not clear how far they’ll get busting the technology giants that are their chief targets. But this marked change of tone at the top could accomplish quite a lot just by sending a strong message to regulators: Do your job.

On July 1 — only two weeks after Khan was sworn in as Federal Trade Commission chair — the agency voted along party lines to rescind a key policy statement from 2015 that had limited the scope of the FTC’s enforcement capabilities. It directed the FTC to view so-called competitive harm through the narrow lens of consumer welfare, disregarding potentially anticompetitive effects on rivals, suppliers or employees more broadly. The rule blunted the agency’s own power at a time when it might be helpful in regulating the amorphous tech industry — especially giants like Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. In rescinding it, Khan is seeking to restore the original mandate Congress gave the FTC long ago to police “unfair methods of competition,” a duty the agency says “extends beyond the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act,” the two main antitrust laws governing the U.S. today.