We Should Not Endure a King

Antitrust is a political cause, not an economic one

Cory Doctorow
Published in
7 min readFeb 20, 2022


Cartoon depiction of John D. Rockefeller wearing a crown with the names of rail lines that he effectively controlled
Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library

If we will not endure a King as a political power we should not endure a King over the production, transportation, and sale of the necessaries of life. If we would not submit to an emperor we should not submit to an autocrat of trade with power to prevent competition and to fix the price of any commodity. Senator John Sherman, 1890, arguing for the passage of the Sherman Act

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect. Frank Wilhoit, Crooked Timber

Whoever has the gold makes the rules.Johnny Hart, The Wizard of Id.

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Dear Fellow Leftists,

Please don’t let the right trick you into thinking that they own antitrust.


The fight against commercial monopolies has its origins in the struggle for self-determination. Monopolized sectors, after all, have two powerful advantages:

  1. They are concentrated, which makes it easier for them to come to agreement on how to lobby governments; and
  2. They are highly profitable, because monopolists can screw their workers, suppliers and customers and get away with it.

Because they are profitable and concentrated, monopolies can:

  1. Arrive at a common lobbying position, and
  2. Spend that lobbying position into law.

Money, after all, is power, and concentrated money is concentrated power.

Anyone who has a stake in democratic governance — in letting people elect their leaders and hold them to account — should hate monopoly. Thomas Jefferson railed



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr