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Sen. Warren’s ‘snotty tweets’ exchange with Amazon highlights the dangers of weaponizing antitrust

By: Trace Mitchell and Chris Marchese

Recently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren claimed that Amazon skirts paying its “fair share” in taxes by abusing loopholes. And when Amazon disagreed, Warren threatened “to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”

Libertarians should pay close attention to the underlying message: progressives are prepared to steamroll any opposition to their policies, even if that means weaponizing antitrust.

This isn’t just one senator’s threat to use the government’s antitrust powers to advance a progressive agenda. From the House Judiciary Committee’s staff report on antitrust to Sen. Klobuchar’s recent Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act to the ascension of populist activists Tim Wu and Lina Khan to positions of power, the interests of the American consumer are on the chopping block and progressive passion projects are waiting in the wings.

Whether or not you like Big Tech, all of us should oppose reforms that sideline consumers and let government officials pursue personal vendettas against businesses.

That is why we should be wary of antitrust reforms that take away guardrails that prevent bureaucrats from abusing antitrust law. Under current law, the government finds an antitrust violation only when businesses hurt consumers. But the proposed reforms would remove this limitation and allow the government to use antitrust enforcement for political ends. If passed, these reforms would give progressives cover to break up companies for whatever reason they want.

Whether or not you like Big Tech, all of us should oppose reforms that sideline consumers and let government officials pursue personal vendettas against businesses. To be sure, most progressives are smart enough not to admit their reforms vastly increase the potential for abuse. That’s why they cloak their support for reform in the discussion of largely unobjectionable goals. But make no mistake, antitrust reform is about power. And because the legislative process stands in their way of exercising that power easily, antitrust-without-guardrails is an appealing substitute.

They’re right: our current guardrails—such as the requirement that the government use antitrust enforcement only to protect consumers—are indeed limiting. But these guardrails were a direct response to the government abusing its antitrust powers for decades.

A century ago, American antitrust law more or less meant the government could pick winners and losers depending on what those in power thought was good politics. That resulted in incoherent enforcement decisions gamed by policymakers to advance their goals even when doing so meant harming consumers, economic growth, and innovation. And that’s what often ended up happening—government attacks on businesses led to higher prices, and lower quality goods and services for consumers. We can’t let that happen again.

Free enterprise, consumer welfare, economic growth, innovation, and, most importantly, the rule of law depend on it.

So when progressives like Warren call for a complete gutting of current guardrails, what they’re really calling for is a return to the past.

Libertarians shouldn’t be fooled. Although progressives claim that such reforms target Big Tech, these reforms are a slippery slope to enabling progressives to regulate nearly every business in every industry as they see fit.

We need to learn from the past and not let the current animosity toward Big Tech cloud those important lessons.

Free enterprise, consumer welfare, economic growth, innovation, and, most importantly, the rule of law depend on it.

Trace Mitchell

Trace Mitchell

Trace Mitchell is a Research Assistant with the Liberty and Law Center at George Mason University and a JD candidate at the George Mason University, Antonin Scalia Law School. He is also a Young Voices contributor, and his work has appeared in the Hill, RealClearPolicy, American Banker, Chicago Tribune, and various other publications nationwide.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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