In 2014, Peter Thiel—the man who would become Donald Trump’s Silicon Valley consigliere—wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “Competition is for Losers,” extolling the virtues of corporate monopolies and explaining why competitive markets are overrated.
Thiel was ahead of his time.
While Trump promised to combat concentrated economic power on the campaign trail, he has since positioned himself as one of the most pro-monopoly presidents in history. On January 4, his team selected Jay Clayton—a Wall Street mergers and acquisitions attorney who specializes in corporate consolidation—to head the SEC. Recently, a top Trump adviser signaled approval for the proposed AT&T/Time Warner merger, writing in The New York Times that there’s basically nothing wrong with “a high level of concentration in an industry.” And the president-elect himself has been playing nice with the CEO of Sprint, just as the company seeks approval for a controversial merger with T-Mobile.
As Trump takes to Fox News to attack the “dumb market” and Mike Pence embraces economic nationalism, it’s now clear that the leaders of GOP have adopted Peter Thiel’s perspectives on competition and concentrated power. While the word “competition” was once as revered on the right as “patriotism,” “liberty,” or “family,” conservatives are now ceding it to progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are increasingly focused on fighting monopoly power and restoring competitive markets.
In June, Warren delivered a major speech entitled “Reigniting Competition in the American Economy” that laid out the essence of her economic philosophy: Over the last three decades, a trend of corporate consolidation has created an unprecedented concentration of power in the economy and undermined the functioning of markets. Just about every industrial sector—think airlines, agriculture, telecoms, and beyond—has been consolidated under a small number of corporations with growing power to set prices and fix the rules of the game.
“Today in America,” Warren argued, “competition is dying.”