Sen. Rand Paul: Looming antitrust action is a threat to free markets

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Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is taking a victory lap after standing in the way of legislation that would increase fees on large company mergers, saying “antitrust zealots” are getting in the way of free market activity even as they hoard federal power.

“To them, big is always bad. Except, of course, when it comes to the size and scope of government,” Mr. Paul wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. “These antitrust activists tried to rush legislation through the Senate that would give government more power over the economy.”

Mr. Paul, a Republican and well-known libertarian, said he blocked the Senate from considering the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, which would have boosted fees on transactions worth more than $1 billion while reducing fees for mergers valued at less than $1 billion.

It passed the House in September, but Mr. Paul said the bill would have punished a company for its success.

“A company that continuously rewards its customers with superior products and innovations will, in turn, be rewarded with a greater market share than its competitors,” he wrote. “But no company can achieve a strong position in the market and rest on its laurels. Consumers are too demanding, and competitors will arise to steal customers away from any firm that ceases to treat its clients well.”

He pointed to Netflix, the video service that grew in popularity over traditional video-loaning stores such as Blockbuster.

Mr. Paul said the Federal Trade Commission tried to block a merger between Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, which no longer exist, even as Netflix grew in popularity. Now Netflix faces competition from the likes of Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Apple TV and other streaming platforms.

“We didn’t need government to break up Netflix. We didn’t need government to intervene to ensure competition and innovation,” Mr. Paul wrote. “All we needed to do was to let the market work.”

Mr. Paul says more antitrust legislation is on the horizon. He pointed to a pending Senate bill that, according to its official summary, would in some instances shift “the burden of proof to the merging parties to prove that the merger does not violate the law.”

Mr. Paul added, “That is what is coming. The antitrust legislation we in the Senate considered this week is a mere precursor to designating the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission as the central planners of the American economy. It seeks to take the power out of the hands of consumers and hand it to antitrust bureaucrats, and that’s why I went to the floor and made my objection to this bill clearly known.”

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