Ted Cruz called for legislation ending Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption the same week that China’s oxymoronic competition authority fined Alibaba $2.8 billion, citing the e-commerce giant for violations of China’s antitrust gufflaw. Though the United States, unlike China, actually has antitrust laws grounded in and enforced to protect business competition and also unlike China has not yet devolved into one-man rule, Ted and Xi agree about one thing. Antitrust is merely a cudgel to be wielded politically against businesses that piss them off.
Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and largest shareholder has gradually been disappeared by Xi after giving an October 2020 speech to a People’s Bank of China forum. Ma criticized China’s regulators, who then coincidentally began an antitrust investigation of Alibaba. That probe produced a fine three times the size of China’s previous highest in under four months. During the warp speed proceedings, Ma was uncharacteristically absent from public view, but surfaced briefly at a golf course in Sun Valley on Hainan Island, almost as remote from China’s power centers as its namesake in Idaho.
Cruz also wants to use antitrust as a weapon against dissidents who dis him and his. In this case the Majors that moved their All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in protest of Georgia’s recent voter suppression legislation.
In previous posts, HL 78 (Trust Busting Is Back on Page One . . .) and HL 89 (A Funny Thing Happened On the way to Breaking Up Apple and Google . . .) we have celebrated the recent resurgence of antitrust while warning that misguided enforcement can actually stifle competition, innovation and consumer choice. But off the mark antitrust enforcement is one thing and antitrust used to silence and punish dissent and corporate social activism is another and much worse. Let’s leave that type of antitrust enforcement to Xi and his henchmen and to the people of that nation to accept or reject it.