When it comes to technology and the economy, the U.S. is grappling with two contradictory goals: competing with China in advanced technology industries and ramping up antitrust enforcement against leading U.S. tech companies.
As Rob Atkinson writes in The Wall Street Journal, antimonopoly advocates argue that we can have our cake and eat it too. Go ahead and break up big tech, they say; we can still compete with China. But there is a long history of U.S. antitrust actions against technology companies, and the results suggest regulators should exercise caution. From RCA, AT&T, to Xerox, antitrust regulations have given the leg up to European and Japanese firms, reducing U.S. competitiveness.
As policymakers now consider competition issues related to today’s large technology firms, they would be well advised to learn from this history. With Chinese Internet and tech companies waiting in the wings, aggressive antitrust actions against U.S. leaders run the risk of giving a new generation of foreign rivals the boost they need to dominate global markets, just as Japanese and European firms have benefited in the past.