Review: Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) / Getty Images Santi Ruiz • April 25, 2021 4:55 am
Some books are dull because of their subject matter, and others are dull despite it. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s new opus, Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age, manages to be even duller than its already dull subject. Though the last few pages detail Klobuchar’s goals as head of the Senate antitrust subcommittee and may therefore be useful for some readers, they’re packaged in 500 pages of incoherent fluff.
Of course, antitrust law is a warren of dull economic jargon, and even the flashiest author would be hard-pressed to jazz it up. Early on, the Minnesota Democrat announces her commitment to making it accessible to a lay audience: In Antitrust, this approach means we get a long discursion on her maternal grandparents.
Antitrust jumps from family history to American history and various policy prescriptions, but the main philosophical thrust is an attempt to situate antitrust law firmly in the American tradition. Klobuchar leans heavily on anti-monopolist tendencies among the Founders and state constitutions, quoting Alexander Hamilton at length (with the requisite nods to the Broadway show). At times, the history seems disjointed, as when she argues that America’s Founders could “never have conceived of the enormous influence” multinational companies now have in the same paragraph as she notes their attacks on the British East India Company.
The book then moves into a dense, detail-laden account of every antitrust movement of the last two centuries, evidently to show Klobuchar has done the reading. Multiple pages are block quotes lifted out of various antitrust textbooks. She’s conspicuously careful when criticizing political figures for their racial record. Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson all receive flak for their prejudice, while a page later Margaret Sanger, America’s most successful eugenicist, is described solely as “an advocate for women’s access to contraceptives.”
As a senator from the Land of 10,000