The rise of Hipster Neo-Brandeisianism signals a profound shift in antitrust enforcement, championing a more assertive approach to curb corporate power and promote broader societal goals. Market Institute President Charles Sauer takes a look at the regulatory overreach in a new article at Real Clear Markets. Led by figures like FTC Chair Lina Khan and DOJ Antitrust Head Jonathan Kanter, this movement has supplanted the traditional consumer welfare standard, advocating for policies that extend beyond market efficiency to encompass labor rights, democracy protection, and economic restructuring. However, its expansive agenda, which seeks to wield industrial and tax policies alongside antitrust measures, poses a significant threat to economic freedom and sovereignty. With U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai endorsing this ideology, there is a pressing need for congressional scrutiny to counteract its potentially detrimental effects on prosperity and liberty.

He writes:

“A specter is haunting the world economy…. the specter of hipster Neo-Brandeisianism. Hipster Brandeis is the term coined by Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers for the Neo-Brandeisian (named after former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis) approach to antitrust enforcement. Hipster Neo-Brandeisianists, like Brandeis himself, favor an aggressive use of antitrust to punish businesses for the crime of growing too big by efficiently satisfying consumers.

Hipster Brandeisianism also seeks to use antitrust as a tool to advance the interests of labor unions and achieve other progressive goals. Hipster Brandeisians also wish to use antitrust to “protect democracy” from the threat posed by “big tech” companies like Alphabet (parent company of Google and Microsoft), Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram), and Amazon. Under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan (who helped launch the hipster Brandeis movement while still in law school) and Justice Department Antitrust Head Jonathan Kanter, hipster Brandeisianism has displaced the consumer welfare standard as the as the guiding principles of U.S. antitrust policy.

As the name suggests, the consumer welfare standard judges a business’s actions by how it affects consumers—which is the standard of the marketplace. Hipster Brandeisians dislike the consumer welfare standard because it limits the ability of Lina Khan and her allies to use antitrust to expand government power and reshape the economy. A Politico article on the recent Brussels Conference on Antitrust confirms fears that hipster Brandeisianism has spread to the European Union. According to the article, both U.S. and E.U. regulators are committed to not just using antitrust to ensure competitive markets- but as a tool for “saving democracy and stabilizing global politics.”

The U.S.-E.U. consensus on both the ends and means of the hipster Brandeisian agenda means that there will be more behind-the-scenes “cooperation” between U.S. and E.U. antitrust regulators. The cooperation ensures that if U.S. regulators are unable to block a merger or other transaction, their E.U. counterparts can step in and do their U.S. counterparts’ “dirty work” for them—and visa-versa.

The globalist hipster Brandeisians are not limiting themselves to expanding the use of antitrust. They also want to use industrial and tax policy to reshape the economy. Implementing this agenda would create the type of government planning apparatus not seen since the collapse of communism in the late 20th century—a collapse whose lessons have been forgotten (more likely never learned) by the hipster Brandeisians.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai also spoke at the Brussels conference. One would normally expect the U.S. Trade Representative’s remarks to extol the benefits of free trade and how international competition benefits consumers and domestic businesses and workers by forcing domestic business to be more competitive and innovative. At least one would not expect the U.S. Trade Representative to sound more like a woke college sophomore than a federal cabinet member.

But Tai is a hipster Brandeisian, so her remarks focused on the need to advance policies aimed at “breaking out of some of these colonial and post-colonial structures” and “transitioning out of old systems and trying to create new ones that are democratic and competitive.” In reality, a trade system designed to prove democracy and end colonialism will empower government bureaucrats to play a greater role in managing the economy. The increased regulations will mostly impact small and new businesses who, unlike the large established firms, cannot afford the increased costs imposed by government. So Tai and her allies would make international markets less competitive. Increasing the power of the E.U. and American regulators and facilitating further “cooperation” between them will make them unaccountable to the people’s elected representatives, thus making the U.S. and E.U. less democratic. Of course, Khan, Kanter, and Tai might view the ability to evade congressional accountability as a feature, not a bug of their system.”

Read more at Real Clear Markets by clicking here.