Trust Busting to Prosperity

The next administration needs to reform or destroy numerous existing institutions. Unfortunately, outside of the allusions to Carthaginian destruction, there are not enough constructive ideas to implement in their place. What is concerning is the repetitive feedback loop which leads to inevitable failure theater: status quo politicians without ideas being yelled at by directionless complaining of inactivity on the part of constituents. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

On the Big Tech antitrust side of things, impressively, the American Principles Project is showing a more constructive path. Jon Schweppe recently wrote about the antitrust legislative ideas currently percolating in Congress. While I applaud the constructive nature of his analysis, I think the fight should be expanded even more on the antitrust front. 

There’s really nothing different about Big Tech firms than there is with respect to other large corporations. All of these inefficient behemoths are equally destructive, yet for decades, the FTC has done nothing about them. Somehow, larger companies can gobble up competition and lobby for more regulation making any new competition powerless to seriously compete. In the second, more seriously staffed Trump Administration, the focus should be to reform not just Big Tech, but all large companies. 

A line in the sand should be set at an overall market cap (say, $100 billion-$500 billion) that prevents bloat and monopolistic tendencies across all industries. No more endless mergers to avoid competing, wasting money on lobbyists, and so on. What these spin off companies will create is more middle and upper manager jobs, and reduce bloated C-suite compensation.  

Again, these ideas have to complement a pro-family agenda. Having more senior directors and vice presidents and slightly poorer CEOs is a net benefit to society. These upper-middle-class jobs are just as foundational for strong cities and towns as factories were. Like the loss of manufacturing jobs, the loss of these jobs can be just as devastating. Sidney, Nebraska and Ft. Wayne, Indiana lost their headquarters through various mergers. These were not manufacturing hubs, but retail and financial. Yet, with the stroke of a few pen signatures and deal closings, these towns suffered as much as any rust belt city. 

Besides families, the other major beneficiary of the forced creation of spin off organizations would be investment bankers. Companies sold or merged need bankers, and those bankers get fees. While no one is losing sleep over their current levels of compensation, investment bankers are a powerful group. If something is in a banker’s financial interest, there will be no problem motivating him to drive towards that goal. Self-interest rightly understood can be of benefit here. 

Sometimes battles create strange bedfellows, but having these numerous banking groups (obviously, these banks cannot be allowed to get too big, either) weigh-in behind this movement could motivate politicians who are stuck in their reflexive “pro-business” mindset.  

Since man was kicked out of the Garden of Eden, we have lived in an imperfect world. Choices are always about finding the lesser of two evils. At this point, I prefer intelligent bankers making a few million bucks working 100-hour weeks versus a few mediocre and moderately smart CEOs making hundreds of millions of dollars running woke public utilities. If someone has a better idea, I am ready to listen. Until then, spare America the status quo and feckless bleating.

 

About Mark Rothermel

Mark Rothermel is a former Armored Cavalry Officer in the United States Army and entrepreneur. He holds an MBA in finance and is currently pursuing his master's in history.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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