Conceptualizing Big Tech As ‘Modern Bigness’ and Its Implications for European Competition Law Submission in Reaction to the Call for Contributions – Shaping Competition Policy in the Era of Digitalization
7 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2018
Date Written: november 6, 2018
As academic I have been pondering the European competition law response to statements as 'Big Tech is a Big Problem' (Project Syndicate 2018), “the data economy demands a new approach to antitrust rules” (Economist 2018) and “Is it time to break up Google?” (NYT (2017)). Supporting the tenets of these statements – that competition law should do something about Big Tech, even though it is not always clear what exactly – might imply a move away from the basis of the Commission’s current competition law enforcement. Instead of focusing on the question whether the current instruments of and enforcement practice of European competition law is fit-for-21st-century-purposes, in this very brief paper I would like to focus on a more fundamental question: what is it, that makes ‘Big Tech’ so worrisome? Is the power of Big Tech a qualitatively new phenomenon, and if so, is it so fundamentally different from ‘old’ Bigness, that an overhaul of the foundations of competition law should be seriously considered?
My hypothesis is, indeed, that Big Tech is not a mere incarnation of ‘old’ ‘Bigness’. Instead, it is something new, captured by the notion of ‘Modern Bigness’, which I will introduce below. It is only by conceptualizing Big Tech as Modern Bigness that the subsequent question how European competition law should respond can be properly addressed.
On the one hand, I would like to stress that this is not a fully formed academic paper. It will only outline the contours of a new theory, which might be relevant to answer the Commission’s question on how competition policy should be shaped in the era of digitalization. On the other hand, my follow-up aim is to contribute to the academic literature relating to the interplay between competition law and the digital economy. This literature has focused on specific challenges of the digital economy and on whether the instruments of competition law are fit-for-purpose. It also relates to the ongoing debate on what competition law is for, but this is not always combined with providing a deep understanding of this new phenomenon. In this short contribution, I would like to provide the contours of a novel theory: a theory of Modern Bigness, and indicate why a further deepening of the theory might be a relevant endeavor.
Keywords: digitalization; modern bigness; competition law; platform power
JEL Classification: K21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation