Given that this is from the Counterbalance we know it’s going to be remarkably stupid but here’s someone trying to convince us on what European antitrust policy should be:
When firms are super-big, I would start from the structural presumption that ‘I don’t want you, the companies, to merge.’ I block it. But then I pass you the ball. Because the authorities don’t have the information: the merging parties do. So I say – and this is the reversal of the burden of proof, which is rebuttable – ‘can you prove that this merger is the only way to bring these benefits?’
I would say “You, Google, the most almighty firm in the world, why do you need to purchase Fitbit to achieve these benefits? Can’t you do it yourself, with all the smart guys you have? And leave Fitbit on its own, or available for purchase by someone without your market power, as this will increase competition? Prove that you really cannot do it without buying Fitbit. It is beyond my comprehension. Show me.”
The answer to this is that this is someone else’s property. The definition of property being that you may dispose of it as you wish. Banning Fitbit from selling to Google is a diminution of the property rights of the owners of Fitbit over Fitbit.
OK, I agree, there are times when property rights are justly violated. Wars, emergencies, we can all think up exceptions as to when this might be justifiable. But that a bureaucrat doesn’t understand – “beyond my comprehension” – isn’t one of those justifiable exemptions.
That a bureaucrat can show that this is a bad idea for consumers might well be just such a justification. But the dimness of the bureaucrat is not.
The underlying point here is that the bureaucrat is infested with that European – Napoleonic – idea that he should be the planner of society rather than just the arbiter in conflicts.