I’ve seen that some politicians want to invoke the anti-trust legislation from a century or more ago and apply it to technology. But I remember when I was in grade school, the mainframes were not only dominant, but the talk was of larger mainframes. It was only later that I learned that in the United States, there was a long-running antitrust suit against IBM for having too much control, it was said, over the mainframe market. Look at mainframes today.
Many people feel that antitrust theory, and the antitrust lawsuit — are not only not applicable in technology, but they can do harm. Government regulations often have the effect of freezing the status quo. Imagine if we had a commission on document copying. We might still have mimeographing and so-called “wet copying.” That’s because regulations are created and implemented by regulators who often represent the status quo. Many young people reading this don’t even know what mimeographing is. These are the same kids who only see a pay phone in an old classic movie. And as for phones, many observers in the industry believe that U.S. regulations had the effect of preventing a more rapid development of mobile or cell phones. And there are all sorts of theories about the effects of breaking up At&T.
So, regulations and antitrust seem like an easy answer to some, but the record is very mixed in the past, and certainly when it comes to technology, we cannot know the unknown. Regulations and antitrust are based on the present. And even if you believe that the antitrust lawyers in the government and all the government regulators are all honest and fair, knowledgeable and competent, open-minded and unbiased, they are not clairvoyant. They are usually, as the saying goes, “looking through the rearview mirror.”