More Insight, More Voices — Why We’re Investing in Anti-Monopoly Research

03. 31. 2021

We hope you’ll join us in this urgent effort to interrogate this impact on our economy, democracy, and society.

The moment we’re in demands deep, critical inquiry into the structure of the economy — who it works for, who writes the rules, and who it’s stacked against — and creative, innovative insights and solutions backed by rigorous empirical evidence to build a more equitable and resilient economy. The Anti-Monopoly Fund at the Economic Security Project is rising up to this challenge by launching an open call for academic scholars interested in studying concentrated economic power and the evolving economy. Interested scholars should apply here.

The ongoing trends of this past year — the global COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis, nationwide protests for racial justice, and so much more — have exposed deeply ingrained fractures in our society. These events build on a history of rampant inequality along racial, gender, and class lines, and have led to the erosion of public institutions and the increasing reliance on private institutions and markets to solve public problems, leaving individuals, families, and society vulnerable to the threat of concentrated private power. One thing is clear: we cannot return to “normal,” and instead must rebuild an economy that provides a shared sense of agency, opportunity, and security.

We’re invested in supporting the broader academic community that is diving into these issues and driving empirical research to answer some of the most pressing policy questions about the perils of concentrated economic power of our times. Over four decades of neoliberal economic thought perpetuated by the Chicago School has penetrated antitrust enforcement strategies and moved us away from a once-robust anti-monopoly tradition. But in recent years, a nascent and growing ecosystem of scholars, organizations, and politicians have taken the helm to try to reverse this trend and revive the anti-monopoly tradition — so that we can imagine and work toward a world in which we structure markets equitably and hold concentrated private power accountable for abuse of dominance, worker exploitation, and other unfair practices.

This moment also demonstrates just how far this field has come. From the rich intellectual thoughtwork conceived by scholars affiliated with the Neo-Brandeisian movementthe Utah Statementthe Law and Political Economy project, and other academic hubs, scholarship has paved the way for rigorous anti-monopoly action. This work has played an integral role in supporting policy development, regulatory oversight, narrative and cultural change, grassroots organizing, litigation, and more. The growing body of empirical evidence demonstrating the effects of concentrated markets and excessive market power — from stagnant and suppressed wagesincreased worker surveillance, $5,000 in annual rents extracted from the typical American households, and other harms — has motivated Congress to act. Rep. Cicilline and Sen. Klobuchar have begun to introduce new legislation that would tackle some of these problems and modernize antitrust enforcement for the twenty-first century. The Biden Administration is paying attention to these issues, too: President Biden has appointed two leading antitrust scholars, Tim Wu and Lina Khan, to key positions in his administration that would play a critical role in reining in excessive economic power.

Our goal is to support research that complements these efforts while also supporting inquiries into new, pressing questions on anti-monopoly issues — including those pertinent to antitrust law and competition policy, and other policy areas that fall under this broader purview of anti-monopoly work, including labor law, corporate governance, and tax policy. Concentrated private power shows up in different forms across our economy, democracy, and society, and no one policy tool alone will sufficiently tackle the outsized role of dominant corporations across the board.

As we start to define the contours of this field, we must think creatively and expansively about anti-monopoly work. The anti-monopoly ecosystem straddles multiple disciplines and fields, and we hope that sociologists, political scientists, philosophers, theorists, historians, and scholars from other disciplines will join legal and economic scholars in this interdisciplinary endeavor. There is a place, too, for movement scholars, technologists, and lawyers in this ecosystem. We hope that our open call will seed scholarship that builds on the work of movement organizers in this field, including grassroots and worker organizing efforts.

Namely, there is tremendous opportunity for the academic community to contribute to work at the intersection of anti-monopoly and racial equity. So many movement organizers are doing amazing work exploring, articulating, and tackling the connection between anti-monopoly and anti-racism. Just earlier this month, Anti-Monopoly Fund grantee Liberation in a Generation published a report on the need to center organizers of color in the anti-monopoly movement, calling for more research and policy solutions that tackle the disproportionate harms communities of color face when it comes to monopoly power. This commitment to racial justice is also shared by some prominent antitrust enforcers, including Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission Rebecca Slaughter, who has raised questions about how antitrust law can be used to promote racial inclusion and equity. To start, we need more data on the impact of concentrated economic power on marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color and poor and low-income earning people.

Our call for academic research proposals comes at a critical time, too, when dominant corporations are flexing their power to drive and censor research outcomes. Given the urgent need to build public trust in the research process and results — especially when much of this work has critical policy implications for how we regulate and govern markets — we’re committed to upholding robust standards for transparency throughout our open call. One small but important step is by ensuring clear and complete disclosures from grantees awarded an academic research grant from our fund.

The risks of concentrated private power have never been greater. We hope you’ll join us in this urgent effort to interrogate this impact on our economy, democracy, and society and explore possible policy solutions through academic research. To apply, read over our open call and submit a proposal by the first round deadline on May 17th or the second round deadline on July 19th.