There are two competing conservative coalitions forming around whether or not Comcast and Time Warner Cable should be allowed to merge. One group, headed by Grover Norquist (and to which my organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, belongs) argues that there is no indication of market failure and so even under current antitrust law that favors government interference, there are no grounds for rejecting the merger. The other group, which includes tea-party organizations, is worried that the administration is politically favoring the merger and allowing it to go ahead quickly as a form of “crony capitalism.”
To help clear up the debate, my colleague Wayne Crews has an article in Forbes that attempts to get to the bottom of what conservative philosophy should say about antitrust laws. He gets down to the most important principles:
The conservative anti-merger letter gives credence to the left-wing view that capitalism and economic freedom are inimical to civil society and the diffusion of ideas, when they are in fact the prerequisites.
Information fundamentally cannot be monopolized by any private entity in a free society whose government does not practice censorship (which is the actual prohibition of the airing of alternative views).
The creation and provision of information, content and infrastructure represent the very implementation of free speech rather than its debasement.
Ironically, merger opponents clearly feel entitled to effectively commandeer others’ resources, to limit the size structure and trajectory of someone else’s soapbox. That is the true threat to the First Amendment and the “diversity of viewpoints” that should be of concern to conservatives.
The scale and scope of private, shareholder-owned media organizations are not appropriate targets of coercive public policy.
It is good that conservative groups are now wary of crony capitalism at every turn, given this administration’s parade of abuses, but we must always be sure that we do not allow that to get in the way of creative free enterprise and free expression.