Antitrust as an Instrument of Democracy

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In this moment of renewed political interest in antitrust, a widespread consensus has formed that antitrust law needs to be concerned not only with economic questions, but also with democratic ones. Echoing earlier comments by Senator Elizabeth Warren that excessive concentration threatens democracy, President Biden’s Executive Order on competition begins with the premise that “excessive market concentration threatens . . . democratic accountability.” Former President Donald Trump similarly asserted that antitrust enforcement was necessary to prevent the destruction of democracy. Think tanks across political spectrum have argued for more vigorous antitrust enforcement in defense of their democratic visions. The leadership of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission have pledged to reorient antitrust toward preserving democracy. But if there is widespread agreement that antitrust law should serve as an instrument of democracy, there is little consensus on what that means or how it should happen.