Elizabeth Warren just gave the most sneakily important speech of 2016

Warren calls for a return to strict antitrust enforcement. In other words, government needs to go after big banks, big tech companies — the big companies that dominate every single industry in the US today.

The speech is short, informative, and plain English that anyone can understand — worth reading. The full text, along with a bit of analysis, is here:

Elizabeth Warren’s Consolidation Speech Could Change the Election [Washington Monthly/Paul Glastris]

Warren says every single industry in the US today is dominated by about three titanic corporations, which have the power to stifle competition. She cites banking, airlines, and the tech industry.

By way of background, Warren explains that for most of the first century of antitrust regulation, government forbade monopolies. Since the 1970s or so we’ve had a more lenient standard, permitting monopolies unless they were demonstrably harmful to consumers. Warren calls for a return to the more strict standard — not as an anti-market maneuver, but so that the market can be permitted to operate.

Warren is absolutely right here, with one damn big reservation. In the one industry I’m closely familiar with — the tech industry, of course — the examples she cites make me say, “Yes, but…. ” As in: Yes, but can Google REALLY be considered a monopoly? The barrier to competition is so low here — as the cliche in the tech industry goes, the competition is only a click away. Google’s search results are just plain better than most of the companies seeking antimonopoly protection. Most of the companies seeking antimonopoly protection against Google are, to put it plainly, spammers.

Still, as blogger/author John Robb has pointed out several times, our current economy is dangerously centralized. The US has effectively replicated the command-and-control economies of the USSR and Maoist China. In those countries, government bureaucrats ran the economy; in the US it’s government bureaucrats partnering with Wall Street, but the effect will be the same.

I love this speech by Warren. It raises what should be the central issue of the Presidential campaign, which is an issue that we’ve been struggling with the entire history of the country: What, if anything, should be the role of government in the US economy? We’ve held up “hands off” as the ideal twice in American history, and both times it’s proven wrong. I like Warren’s ideal: Government should be a referee, ensuring competition. The referee doesn’t choose the winner of a boxing match, but he breaks up clinches and penalizes hitting below the belt.

Ironically, Trump is more likely to be friendly to this message than Clinton. But Trump literally changes his views on on a monthly basis, so he can’t be trusted on this or any other issue.

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