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Former Head of DOJ Antitrust Division: Google's Conduct Threatens the Free Market

NB: This is a guest post by Rick Rule, Former Head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division

Senator Lee is right to call for careful scrutiny of Google, given the numerous allegations of antitrust violations by the company.  The antitrust laws of this country prohibit companies like Google that dominate important parts of our economy from using their market power to destroy competition and to deny consumers of choice. Decisions from conservative courts make clear that the antitrust laws apply just as much to the new economy as to the old.  If a company like Google is allowed to flout the rule of law, then free-market competition will suffer.

Senator Lee’s letter to the FTC shows that the Senator understands that promoting sound antitrust law enforcement is an important bulwark against the inevitable calls for regulation.  Senator Lee’s letter is in line with the views of conservative judges and free-market heroes, like Judge Bork and Judge Posner.

I too am a conservative who believes in the supremacy of free markets. I worked for President Reagan as the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division.   We understood then, as Senator Lee understands today, that in order for free-market competition to work, consumers and producers must be able to respond to the market’s “invisible hand” free from artificial restraints imposed by government, by cartels, or by monopolists like Google.  The troubling allegations that Google uses its market power to impose such restraints are too numerous to ignore.  As Senator Lee’s letter demonstrates, conservative principles demand that Google be held accountable to the rule of law.

Rick Rule served as the head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division from 1985-1989 and is currently a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP and outside counsel to Microsoft.