This is now a couple of weeks old, but I just stumbled across a very interesting look at the new Federal Trade Commission chair. And it’s a little bizarre. Excerpt:
Last month Lina Khan, the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission, issued an internal memo setting out her goals for the agency. It is a paper loaded with bureaucratic abstraction. Khan calls on the agency to “harness” a “strategic approach,” “execute on best practices,” “broaden…institutional skillsets,” “prioritize…core operational objectives,” and “apply an integrated approach” that “surface[s] interconnections.”
Underneath the linguistic bunkum, however, are some bold claims about the agency and its place in the world. Khan calls for a “holistic” (read: expansive) approach to antitrust law, one that (somehow) balances the interests of “workers and independent businesses as well as consumers.” She urges staff to operate more like industrial planners—administrators who identify “root causes,” dictate “market structure,” and control “macro effects.” She declares the agency a “body whose work shapes the distribution of power and opportunity across our economy.”
Note that it’s impossible to “dictate market structure” or to “control macro effects.” This is the language of Marx and Lenin, and central control has failed every time it’s been tried. This is stupidity on steroids – hardly something new for the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration.
A government agent bent on “shap[ing] the distribution of power” is presumably in want of formidable power herself. Khan has granted herself unilateral authority over antitrust investigations, barred agency staff from speaking in public, and dismissed a respected economist from one of the agency’s most notable cases. She has expanded the agency’s discretion to challenge vertical mergers, its power to attach conditions to merger approvals, and its ability to expedite (and politicize) the making of rules governing trade practices. In an especially high-handed move, the agency has on Khan’s watch announced that instead of approving certain mergers, it will simply tell the parties that they may merge “at their own risk,” the agency reserving the right to unwind deals later. Make no mistake, merger reviews still occur; but now, they are reportedly being used to interrogate firms about social justice and ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) matters unrelated to competition. If you’re still not impressed, consider that all of this occurred in the new chair’s first three months in office.
Lina Khan is not opposed to consolidated power, it seems, so much as she is opposed to consolidated power not wielded by Lina Khan. She doesn’t necessarily disagree. In a recent interview, Khan referred to the “existential stakes of underreaching,” as chair. “When identifying the top ten threats” to the agency, she said, going too far is “not on the list.”
In other words, Lina Khan is proposing to engage in an unprecedented power grab, one that will give her an illegal and unconstitutional control over the nation’s economy.
I wish I could say that this was something new, but it’s not.
This, True Believers, is lawmaking by the Executive branch, and it’s illegal as hell – not to mention disastrous for the nation’s economy, and utterly destructive to the very idea of free trade. Not only is Lina Khan proposing an unconstitutional power grab, she has a dagger aimed at the heart of what made America what it is – free trade and commerce.
Here’s the possible bright spot: The Biden(‘s handlers) Administration has indulged in one stupid over-reach after another since January past. Judging from their response to last week’s elections, they are undeterred and will continue to do so. That’s hopeful; the GOP is, after all, driving us off the same fiscal cliff, but at least they’re doing it a little more slowly.