- Corruption: Concentrated gains, diffused losses.
- This day in history: 2011, 2016, 2020
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee spent 23 hours debating a historically unprecedented package of tech competition bills, surprising observers by passing all six of the legislative proposals under consideration, with bipartisan support.
Each of the six bills is interesting in its own ways — for example, the ACCESS Act (HR 6487) uses interoperability and standards to reduce the costs we bear when we leave monopoly platforms behind, by letting us stay in touch with the friends who stay.
Competition regulators in the EU, the UK and the US are all looking hard at concentration in the tech sector, and well they should: an industry that was once hailed for its dynamism — for being a sector where yesterday’s world-spanning titans are sold for parts to companies that were mere napkin doodles a year or two before — has calcified into “a group of five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four.”
The reasons for tech concentration are pretty straightforward. Despite a lot of fatalistic tech exceptionalism about “network effects” leading to inevitable monopolization, the actual means by which tech companies consolidated is actually easy to see in the historical record.