So here’s my suggestion: Give Biden and his people a break on their antitrust crusade. It won’t do any harm. It won’t get in the way of the big stuff, which is mostly outside Biden’s control in any case. At worst, administration officials will be using inflation as an excuse to do things they should be doing in any case. And they might even have a marginal impact on inflation itself.Paul Krugman, Why Are Progressives Hating on Antitrust?, N.Y. Times (Jan. 18, 2022).
It probably won’t work, so let’s do it?
We need to do it for other reasons, so let’s do it for the wrong reason?
There’s a word for this: Obsession.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the piece, Krugman dismisses price controls, which are one remedy that would actually solve a few problems in the highly efficient (and hence unwise-to-break-up) industries, like meatpacking, to which he’d like to take the antitrust axe. (Not even price controls would, however, help with inflation.)
Krugman did write the introduction for a recent edition of the General Theory, but he diverges from his teacher on antitrust.
Keynes famously thought inflation, or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with competition, monopoly or any other microeconomic phenomenon, which is why he disdained both the N.R.A. and Thurman Arnold. Instead, he invented a whole new branch of economics—macroeconomics—to explain it.
But if there’s no intellectual foundation for progressive antimonopolism, why does it so appeal? As Krugman’s evocation, elsewhere in the piece, of J.F.K. talking tough to the steel industry suggests, it’s a macho thing—progressives thumping their chests at corporate America.
If that sounds a bit savage, there’s a cologne for that, too.