The Corner

Economics

Jerry Ellig: An Economist Who Mattered

The public-policy world lost a quiet hero with the death of regulatory economist Jerry Ellig last month.

Over the course of a 35-year career, Ellig combined vigorous scholarship, inspirational teaching, and real-world policy results. He became chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission in 2017. As Veronique de Rugy wrote in National Review: “Under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai, Jerry and his team freed us from the net-neutrality rules, among other things.”

In recent years, Jerry also co-wrote — with former senator Phil Gramm — several important op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. Each was a gem, bursting the bubble of often-believed but factually inaccurate economic myths.

In a 2019 Journal piece, he and Gramm argued that concerns about the power of Big Tech companies need to be evaluated, knowing that efforts to break up oil and railroad trusts in the 19th century had unintended negative consequences. Thus, calls for more regulation of Big Tech should be viewed with care:

There are legitimate policy concerns involving Big Tech, such as claims of censorship. But history shows little evidence that breaking up big tech companies or regulating them as monopolies will benefit consumers. Before policy makers repeat the failed experiments of the past, they should determine whether trustbusting is really about protecting consumers or merely about expanding the power of government.

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