Why Conservatives Must Support Antitrust Laws

The days of shilling for big business are gone forever

I often think back to when I first became interested in politics ten years ago. I was in high school and the 2012 Presidential Election was heating up. It’s often said that the teenage years are when young people form their own political identity (separate from their parents’), and I was no different. I might have preferred Adam Sandler movies to the news, but still, my naïve, relatively uninformed, 15-year-old self could clearly see the stark contrast between where the two competing sides stood. 

The Democratic Party, led by then-President Barack Obama, was the party of big government, and the Republicans under eventual nominee Mitt Romney were the party of business – big and small, but mostly big. Romney himself was a wealthy tycoon of Bain Capital fame – and it wasn’t just him. It seemed that the entire 2012 GOP field was effectively jockeying for the honor of who could best represent business interests. For example, running to Romney’s right was the late great Herman Cain, my preferred candidate, who prided himself on being the CEO of a major pizza chain, and not a politician. This distinction was particularly important because Obama was the epitome of heavy-handed politicians. His campaign literally boasted an ad featuring a fictitious person whose life was dependent on government programs from cradle to grave. And who could forget his “you didn’t build that” comments. I knew I was a conservative then because I wanted to pave my own way in life, I didn’t want the government to solve all my problems. However, I also bought the lie advanced by Romney and company that the only alternative to this was completely unregulated so-called “free” enterprise, where “private companies” should be free to do whatever they so wish without any consequences whatsoever.

Obama of course won re-election by a wider than expected margin, despite his utter failure to fix the economy during his first term, the American people saw his opponent as an out-of-touch elitist. In an election that was pretty much a binary choice between big business and big government, government won handily. However, many years following Romney’s convincing loss, more and more conservatives are waking up to the fact that big business is not our friend, and the reality of our ideology is far more complicated than simply saying that “free markets” and the private sector are good while the government is bad.

While Mitt Romney (R-UT) is still a Republican, he now possesses minimal power on the right and he has even openly acknowledged that his views now represent just a “tiny wing” of the party. This past week, three of his Senate GOP Caucus colleagues: Mike Lee (also R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Josh Hawley (R-MO), announced they are proposing antitrust legislation to strip Major League Baseball of its current government-granted monopoly over America’s pastime. This comes as a response to MLB’s decision at the beginning of this month to punish the state of Georgia for passing a voter-integrity law by taking the All-Star Game away from the state. I wrote a previous article where I outlined how this cowardly decision on the part of baseball brass was devastating for my favorite sport and the American people as a whole. What the three senators actually seek to do is remove an exception MLB enjoys to the longstanding Sherman Antitrust Act. This loophole, which no other major sports league has access to, has been around for almost a hundred years, and unlike the Sherman Act, was not created by Congress but, rather, is a product of a 1922 Supreme Court decision.  

Many people from the greatly diminished pro-big business “Romney wing” of the Republican Party, along with some libertarians, are up in arms with these prominent conservatives’ seemingly unorthodox interest in regulating large unchecked corporations. On the surface, it seems that they’re right. Aren’t Senators Lee, Cruz, and Hawley betraying their beliefs in limited government and lassiez-faire market economics by literally having the government step in and break apart a “private” company’s dominance of its industry? The answer to this question is absolutely not. To understand why we first have to understand that antitrust laws aren’t meant for the government to stifle “free enterprise” but instead to increase and protect competition. They are aimed at making the economy freer for everyone involved, not less free. Senator Lee stated that “consumers benefit when businesses compete, and baseball is no different.” Senator Cruz added to this saying that removing the exception would rightly deny MLB of “corporate welfare no one else gets,” and force them to “play by the same rules” as the NFL (who at various times faced competition from other major professional sports leagues).

Last week, Senator Hawley also proposed another piece of antitrust legislation, this time aimed at curbing the influence of big tech and other massive companies. The Senator’s bill seeks to ban “all mergers and acquisitions by companies with a market capitalization of over $100 billion” (a category which includes tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google; big-pharma companies such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson; and other corporations such as openly woke Coca Cola). A law like this would especially be needed now following the unprecedented censorships of conservative voices by social media conglomerates that have taken place over the last few months. Hawley acknowledges that Republicans who were afraid to “interfere with the free market” are in a way responsible for this by refusing to regulate big tech companies and therefore allowing them to form monopolies over channels of information. Hawley said that “if you allow corporations to amass significant economic power through market concentration, they are going to have political power, and they’re going to use it.” And that’s exactly what big tech is doing by actively working to suppress any person or story that conflicts with the liberal establishment and its narrative. Limiting the economic power of Apple and Google, who currently have a duopoly on cell phone operating systems, and Amazon who has control over a mind-boggling portion of e-commerce and web hosting would especially be beneficial to free speech. If these three corporations hadn’t garnered so much power in the first place, Parler would not have been forced offline for a month. What Romney-ites and misguided free-market absolutists completely fail to realize is that when corporations get too big, they refuse to play by the rules, and therefore, the government must step in for the “little guy” to have any chance to compete. I guess “private companies” can’t really do “what they want.” Further, private mom and pop shops that sold essential goods among other products weren’t necessarily deemed essential businesses, so government interference in the market further enriched the biggest of companies.  

We Republicans used to be the party of antitrust laws and now that corporatists like Mitt Romney are no longer at the helm of the GOP, it’s time for us to take back that mantle. It was a Republican president, Benjamin Harrison, who signed the aforementioned Sherman Antitrust Act into law in 1890. Just over a decade later, Teddy Roosevelt earned the nickname “Trust Buster” for his hardline stance toward breaking up monopolies. Just like the late 1800s and early 1900s when the oil, steel, and railroad industries were dominated by gargantuan companies that unfairly eviscerated their competition, today we’re in desperate need of true constitutional conservative lawmakers (read: not sellouts to big business) to act as the David to the Goliath of MLB, big tech and others – and antitrust legislation is their “rock.” Preventing large corporations from becoming too powerful is perfectly consistent with us being the party of economic freedom. When monopolies and duopolies are able to exist and persist, the market isn’t truly free.

Just like the government, the power of big business must be limited. We cannot simply substitute one threat to economic and personal liberty with another. What we are seeing from these enormous hegemonic entities (excuse me, “private companies”) is nothing more than privatized tyranny. In fact, authoritarian rule by corporations is in many ways worse than an all-powerful American government because big business moguls are unelected, and as a result, not subject or accountable to the will of the people in any way.

The conservative movement is now in the midst of an identity crisis. We need to figure out who we are, what we stand for, how we can save our great nation from the clutches of the radical left and thus present the case of why the American people should vote for us and not the Democrats (despite their vague promises of “free” stimulus money and “infrastructure”). Do we want to be the watered-down “conservatives” of old who stood for the interests of corporations (many of whom, I remind you, absolutely hate our guts) over everyday Americans? It worked out very well for Romney, didn’t it? No. To take back the Congress in 2022, we need to run on substantial policies that appeal to a wide range of voters. We need to make a new Contract with America, like the one that helped usher in the Republican Revolution of 1994. Supporting antitrust laws is common sense, and it also helps continue our rebranding as the party of the working class. The plutocratic Republican Party of the recent past has got it wrong with letting giant companies run amok without any consequences. It took MLB and big tech actively going against us for our side to realize we had it wrong. As Michael Knowles always likes to point out, as conservatives we need to actually conserve something – and antitrust legislation will certainly help us restore the entrepreneurial spirit of economic competition which made America great.

Further reading