If we ever needed a better reason to turn off the TV and pick up a good book, the braying of some media personalities calling for the swift punishment of the very social media platforms they use to promote their own wares is as good as any.

Putting those self-serving voices to the side, how can individuals convince private companies to change behavior they believe is corrosive, anti-competitive, or just plain wrong?

No, it’s not through the dead hand of government regulation and restriction. As Prof. Don Boudreaux writes, markets are the most effective, and fair, means of protecting consumers’ interests:

In the late 19th century Standard Oil was believed to be an indomitable monopolist. Yet it lost significant market share long before being hauled into court for alleged antitrust violations. Around the same time railroads were thought to possess great monopoly power; after all, it takes much time and money to build new railroad lines in competition with existing ones. Yet not only did railroads have difficulty successfully cartelizing without government assistance, motorized trucks emerged as effective competitors (until this competition was suppressed by government).

In my own lifetime the “Big Four” (later, “Big Three”) Michigan auto makers were thought to pose a danger to the public because of their alleged monopoly power. Which consumers today, though, quake in fear of being held hostage by General Motors, Ford, or (Fiat) Chrysler?

There is no reason whatsoever to suppose that today’s “dominant” tech firms are any less subject to the forces of competition than were yesterday’s “dominant” firms – firms that today are either diminished or defunct. Hence, there is no reason for government to regulate today’s “dominant” firms as if they are true and invincible monopolists.

The chief condition for such competition to remain real and effective is that government not obstruct it. As long as government itself remains neutral and nondiscriminatory, the best protection for consumers and for the polity is the free-market process.

Image Credit: Smnt / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)