Over a year ago, I wrote that the Biden administration was pushing the “most progressive regulatory triumvirate in recent memory.” Leading the charge was a 30-something leftist academic named Lina Khan. She’s chair of the Federal Trade Commission, and if anything, my initial worries were significantly understated.
It’s fair to say Khan has emerged as the most dangerous person in government for those of us who cherish free markets and believe it’s the best way to grow an economy and help people prosper.
Most Americans probably never heard of Lina Khan or know little about the FTC, created more than a century ago “to investigate and prevent unfair methods of competition, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce.” That’s because it’s just one of many agencies in our alphabet-soup of regulatory oversight that governs the $25 trillion US economy.
But it is important. Unlike the so-called SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) which monitors Wall Street, or the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) which hands out broadcast licenses, the FTC has authority over just about any business and industry that falls within the scope of its broad mandate.
It can and has tried to prevent mergers in the tech industry. It has sanctioned telecom companies it believed jacked up prices too much. It weighed in on net-neutrality debate. It even brought a case involving crypto.
You want people running the place to be fair-minded — to punish down on real fraud but allow the economy to innovate without fear of government reprisals.
Of course, Khan wouldn’t buy that argument. As an academic and congressional staffer, and now at the FTC, she sees the evil of capitalism everywhere including in some pretty benign places. While in law school, she wrote a paper called the “Amazon Antitrust Paradox,” that made her a star in lefty-economic circles.
The media anointed her the nation’s “antitrust hipster” for her allegedly bold assertions that Amazon, the ubiquitous online retailer, was somehow destroying competition (and the country) because it offered a product millions upon millions of people love. Amazon needed to be stopped in its tracks.
Because Khan was all of 32 years of age and so left-wing that even Chuck Schumer would have issues with her chairing the FTC, the Biden people first flicked her in as a commissioner.
But once the dust cleared on her Senate confirmation, the White House unilaterally named her chair, blindsiding Schumer and those Republicans who voted for her.
The result has been a train wreck at the FTC. Khan is said to be expanding the FTC power beyond court precedent and its congressional authority. Business is certainly feeling the heat and weighing Khan’s wrath before making any major decision, I am told. Not exactly the recipe for innovation and economic growth.
At the FTC, there is no debate with other commissions on the GOP side that has been customary, and Khan appears to have almost no shame in just how much she will use and some say abuse her power.
She has written extensively about Big Tech, as an academic and congressional staffer. She has attacked specific companies in her past capacities like Amazon and Meta, which owns Facebook. She favors breaking them up, or at least preventing them from expanding any more.
In those writings she has shown an obvious bias, which is usually cause for regulatory recusals. Yet she refuses to do so, particularly in a recent and absurd FTC action trying to prevent Meta from buying the virtual gaming company Within.
The case was a dud, thrown out by a federal judge.
But more worrisome was Khan’s conduct. The administrative code that guides the conduct of our regulatory bureaucracy demands due process for targets and a degree of impartiality and fairness among the people carrying out various actions. That’s one reason why GOP commissioner Christine Wilson dissented in the case.
There was no way Khan could look at the matter fairly given her role as an anti-tech activist, Wilson wrote in The Wall Street Journal, as she announced her resignation from the Khan FTC.
That and the agency’s continued “lawlessness” under Khan was too much for Wilson to take, she wrote. Too bad Sleepy Joe doesn’t have the same standards.
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