The backlash against tech giants has reanimated interest in antitrust recently, thanks to major fines in the European Union and the unsettling prospect of Amazon moving into your neighborhood through its acquisition of Whole Foods. The rebel yell to break up big tech is not sitting right with Joshua Wright, former FTC Commissioner and professor at Antonin Scalia Law School. Last week, Wright started using the hashtag #hipsterantitrust as a pejorative to describe some of the younger and more zealous antitrust experts who are pushing for a new standard to measure whether a company has engaged in antitrust practices.
Senator Orrin Hatch, who advocated for an investigation of Microsoft back in the day, didn’t take kindly to the term. Hatch delivered a statement on the increased controversy over antitrust in the tech sector on the Senate floor, and took the opportunity to clear his good name.
“Professor and former FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright has referred to this peculiar set of proposals as ‘hipster antitrust.’ Well, as you might imagine, Mr. President, nobody would mistake me for a hipster. So for my part, and for ease, I’ll go ahead and call it the progressive standard,” said Hatch.
A writer from Fortune asked photoshop wizard @Darth for an image of hipster Hatch and @Darth graciously obliged. Et voila:
Last year, Hatch alerted the chairwoman of the FTC about new evidence in the agency’s case against Google. The FTC investigation, which closed in 2013, investigated whether Google had engaged in anticompetitive conduct by favoring Google products and services in search results, citing a paper by former FTC advisor Tim Wu, in partnership with Yelp, which found that Google’s OneBox (the pop-up of listing and map for local search results like a restaurant) reduced consumer welfare.
But in his remarks today, Hatch distanced himself from the hipster-progressives, who want to “pursue everything from industrial democracy to campaign finance reform to material levelling,” rather than using the accepted standard of consumer welfare.
“[T]ruth be told, as a proposed replacement for the consumer welfare standard, the progressive standard leaves me deeply unimpressed. From what I can tell, it amounts to little more than pseudo-economic demagoguery and anti-corporate paranoia,” he said.
WIRED has reached out to both Hatch and Wright and will update the post if we hear back.