It's an Easy Mistake to Make …

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… if you're a neo-Brandeisian, I guess. Mark Jamison observes that Neo-Brandeisians Confuse Authoritarian Rule with Liberty.

The neo-Brandeisian (NB) movement has always been about using the government to control others. Its primary strategy is to use antitrust to limit what consumers and businesses can do, but the movement is also interested in using economic regulation, control of property rights, and public ownership of businesses to impose its will on the economy. Now, this authoritarian bent is prompting some to grab power by bypassing governmental checks and balances. If they are successful, it won’t be good for democracy.

Jamison quotes his rogue's gallery, devotees of a guy born 167 years ago.

[Federal Trade Commission Chairperson Lina] Khan explained in 2018 that the movement seeks to use government controls to limit the size and scope of individual businesses. In a 2014 article with Zephyr Teachout, Khan added that NBs prefer “an economy populated by many small businesses” to one where consumers choose to buy from large companies. [Open Markets Institute Director Barry] Lynn is more specific. He explains that NBs want the government to “reengineer” and “reorganize” US industries, including “intentionally structuring corporations and markets.”

Not only do the NBs want to control how many customers a business can serve, but they also want to design businesses’ products. Khan gained fame advocating that the government should redesign Amazon’s e-commerce platform, making it like eBay, as Lynn explained. Wu launched the net neutrality craze in 2003 with the proposition that governments should dictate that broadband be uniform and featureless (i.e., neutral).

The relevant Wikipedia article reminds us that the movement is also called "hipster antitrust". But only "by its detractors". So, count me in that merry band. I've previously used that term a couple years back, here and here. It's still a lousy idea. A road to serfdom? More like a six-lane superhighway.

Briefly noted:

  • Jacob Sullum has a current events question: Is Alvin Bragg Upholding or Flouting the Rule of Law by Prosecuting Trump?.

    The expected criminal charges against former President Donald Trump in New York reportedly hinge on a violation of federal election law with which Trump was never charged. That fact in itself suggests how dubious the case against Trump is: To convert a state misdemeanor involving falsification of business records into a felony, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is relying on the theory that Trump was trying to cover up another crime. But federal prosecutors apparently did not think the evidence of that second crime was strong enough to charge Trump.

    The New York case is based on a 2016 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a sexual affair with Trump in 2006, when he was married to his current wife, former First Lady Melania Trump. Although Trump denies the affair, his lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to keep the story out of the press. While that payment was not inherently criminal, federal prosecutors viewed it as an illegal campaign contribution because, they said, its "principal purpose" was "influencing [the] election," as opposed to avoiding personal embarrassment for Trump or sparing his wife's feelings.

    I'm not a lawyer, and some actual lawyers think Bragg is justified. See, for example, Patterico's Pontifications.

  • A great essay from Astral Codex Ten about Half An Hour Before Dawn In San Francisco.

    I could have stayed in Michigan. There were forests and lakes and homes with little gardens. Instead I’m here. We pay rents that would bankrupt a medieval principality to get front-row seats for the hinge of history. It will be the best investment we ever make. Imagine living when the first lungfish crawled out of the primordial ooze, and missing it because the tidepool down the way had cheaper housing. Imagine living on Earth in 65,000,000 BC, and being anywhere except Chicxulub.

    Everyone here thinks the world will end soon. Climate change for the Democrats, social decay for the GOP, AI if you’re a techbro. Everyone here is complicit in their chosen ending - plane flights, porn, $20/month GPT-4 subscriptions. “We have walked this path for too long, and everything else has faded away. We have to continue in wicked deeds [...] or we would have to deny ourselves.”

    Well, I guess I won't be doing that Frisco trip anytime soon.

  • Leo Kim writes at WIRED, and I'm not sure if it's profound or brain-damaged: The End of ‘Life’ As You Know It.

    In 1947, Claude Beck used the defibrillator to undo what was once deemed irreversible: the cessation of the human heart. Only a few years later, the first mass-produced mechanical ventilator began supporting inert bodies through heavy steel lungs. For the first time, the heart and the breath, those ancient signs of life, could be outsourced to mechanical devices—and seemingly overnight, the boundary between life and death shifted under our feet.

    Today’s debates on standards of brain versus bodily death continue the dialog inaugurated by these apparatuses, but the conversation’s scope has grown as technical innovations create new limit cases to challenge our intuitions on life. As scientists sustained embryos in artificial wombs for increasing periods of time, stem cell research was forced to confront the ambiguity of when a human life, with its corollary rights, begins. More recently, digital tech—like artificial intelligence or its more experimental corollary, artificial life—has raised further questions as to whether inorganic beings might count among the court of the living.

    And at some point this turns into…

    As we attempt to build a more equitable politics that extends past the human (toward the nonhuman animals, future generations, new technologies, and ecosystems that make up the tapestry of our world), …

    So I'm leaning toward brain-damaged, but see what you think.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:30 AM EDT