October 23, 2020


Google is Not a Monopoly (Art Carden, October 23, 2020, AIER)

First, Google isn't the only firm in the search and search advertising space-or web browsing, or word processing, or any of the other fields in which Google does business. Within my Google Chrome browser yesterday, I was able to switch my default search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo with just a few clicks. I could delete Chrome and have Safari, Opera, Firefox, or Brave running the way I want it in a matter of minutes. I'm typing this in Google Docs, but it wouldn't be hard to switch to Word, Pages, a typewriter, quill and ink on parchment, or another word processing solution. 

I don't use Google products because they're the only feasible option or because switching from one platform to another is particularly onerous. I use Google products because they offer convenience and quality at a price of $0. While the Department of Justice worries about Google's market power and innovation, the ease of switching to a different browser or search engine keeps them on their innovative toes. There's a lot of information in what people do compared to what they say, and computer users have voted and continue to vote for Google products. I saw a "Most Interesting Man in the World" meme one time that illustrates this nicely. It was captioned "I don't always open Internet Explorer, But When I Do, It's to Download Chrome." I listen to a lot of productivity podcasts and have written a bit in that space before, and a sizable chunk of the productivity industry consists of evaluating apps and software. Some of Google's market position is likely explained by inertia, but it's probably not that much. 

If you build a better browser, people will beat a path to your door because switching costs are pretty low. I'm a couple of weeks into trying to learn my way around a new app or piece of software every week and I have a computer upgrade coming next month, and my phone is just about due for a replacement. This means I'll be reevaluating my browser choices pretty soon (if you have any suggestions, please let me know). For all its alleged control over the market and control over consumers, Google couldn't make Google Glass, Google Buzz, and Google+ work, and those are now one with Nineveh and Tyre. If only government agencies had the kind of "market power" that forces them to close when it's clear they're wasting resources!

Second, what Randall Holcombe called Political Capitalism flourishes in the world of antitrust regulation. In a 1985 article in the International Review of Law and Economics that should be a classic, Thomas J. DiLorenzo explains "The Origins of Antitrust: An Interest Group Perspective." Fred McChesney relies on it for his article on Antitrust in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. DiLorenzo found that the allegedly-market-restricting trusts were expanding output and lowering prices more rapidly than the rest of the economy. If the trusts were monopolizers, they would be restricting output and raising prices; McChesney points out that even the muckraker Ida Tarbell and the "trustbuster" Theodore Roosevelt admitted that the trusts were raising output and lowering prices. 

Posted by at October 23, 2020 9:12 AM