…doesn’t apply to me; I’m special.
Eric Holder’s Justice Department is getting something right, and they’re coming in for all kinds of opprobrium from the Left for their efforts. It seems that the government’s lawyers are haling a band of publishers into court for colluding on the prices for which they would permit eBook versions of their publications to be sold by resellers. With great crocodile tears, for instance, Senator Charles Schumer (D, NY) bleats
I feel absolutely befuddled by the lawsuit. For the Antitrust Division to step in as the big protector of Amazon doesn’t seem to make any sense from an antitrust point of view. Rarely have I seen a suit that so ill serves the interests of the consumer.
Others insist that that, even if the publishers are illegally colluding, they’re acting in the best interests of the industry and, by extension, of readers. They also insist that book publishing is special: books are the heart and soul of culture and civilization, and if publishers can’t make a decent profit, their ability to produce books is threatened (ignoring whose definition of “decent profit” should be operable here, or the legitimacy of the “heart and soul” bit in an age of virtualization). As a result, these critics further insist that DoJ should allow the publishers to continue breaking the law.
Leaving aside the cynicism of the meme that holds that illegal behavior is acceptable so long as it serves favored interests, such objections stem from a distortion of what the anti-trust law actually is. American antitrust law is concerned with protecting competition, not competitors.
Law professor Herbert Hovenkamp, of the University of Iowa, notes that
The goal of antitrust policy is to protect consumer prices…. It’s not to protect inefficient firms from having to exit the market.
Professor Hovenkamp points out further that
Price fixing [the particular beef of the DoJ’s action] is kind of the first-degree murder of antitrust violations. [DoJ doesn’t] have discretion to just walk away from what appears to be a strong set of facts that, if true, are one of the most central of antitrust violations.
Senator Schumer, et al., know better. This is a demonstration of their morality.