Tag Archives: at&t merger

CEI Podcast for September 1, 2011: The Blocked AT&T-T-Mobile Merger

Have a listen here.

The Department of Justice sued this week to stop the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia thinks this is a mistake. The evidence that the merger would make the wireless market less competitive is unconvincing. Nobody knows if the merger will succeed or not. Either way, consumer harm is unlikely.

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The DOJ’s Antitrust Seers

Today, the Department of Justice sued to stop the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. They claim to know in advance how the merger will affect the mobile market for years to come. It’s an example of F.A. Hayek’s fatal conceit. Of course, most people haven’t read Hayek. So over in the Daily Caller, I use a better known thinker to make the same point:

The philosopher Yogi Berra once said that “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Let’s apply his lesson to the proposed $39 billion AT&T-T-Mobile merger…

Competitors are also surprisingly confident in their ability to predict the future. A Sprint spokeswoman said that “Sprint applauds the DOJ for conducting a careful and thorough review and for reaching a just decision … Today’s action will preserve American jobs, strengthen the American economy, and encourage innovation.”

This translates roughly to “We think the merger would make the market more competitive. We were scared that we’d have to work harder to innovate and cut costs to keep our customers happy. Whew.”

Most mergers fail. Nobody knows if a merged AT&T and T-Mobile would offer a better, cheaper product line. The only way to find out is trial and, often, error. The Justice Department’s astounding claim that it knows the merger’s effects in advance is either proof of its superior enlightenment, or else the height of hubris. I’m guessing the latter.

Read the whole thing here.

We Need Regulators, Not Interveners

The Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce. What does that mean, exactly? Over at the Daily Caller, my colleague Jacque Otto and I explain that regulation is about making commerce regular: no barriers to entry or trade, clear, understandable, and consistent rules, and so on.

Most of what people call regulation doesn’t have anything to with regular commerce. These kinds of rules are more accurately called interventions.

These interventions didn’t appear out of thin air, either:

One important reason regulators intervene is that many businesses want them to — businesses spend considerable effort and resources lobbying Washington to that end. For the most part, American companies compete on quality, price, or other consumer preferences. But on too many occasions, some companies try to use regulatory interventions to dispatch the competition. Sprint’s efforts to squander AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile are emblematic of this troubling trend.

Lessons abound for antitrust regulators — sorry, interveners.