Thought of an idea and was wondering where you guys think it will fail. (Please don’t tell me it’s not libertarian; I’m not advocating for the idea, I’m literally just looking to see how other libertarians dissect it.)
I was thinking about anti-trust cases and how the government assesses these things (most notably with assessing mergers) and realized that with merger cases their end goal is to essentially make sure consumer surplus wouldn’t reduce (obviously there’s a lot more to it, but that’s the general idea).
So, then I thought about how it would be neat to just peg a non-moving statement to it to optimize for that, in other words, “No merger if consumer surplus after merger is reduced”. The issue with that is there is no real way to determine consumer surplus after a merger.
So, what if we expanded to all anti-trust instances and assessed it in real time instead? Basically, maybe they would have to be above some sort of ratio of consumer surplus to producer surplus or something.
That’s too simplistic for the complexities necessary, but the general idea is what if we incentivized companies not to be anticompetitive using a definitive line instead of giving the government the power to determine when something is acting anticompetitively?
The companies will do as companies do and get right up to that line, but so long as that is still more beneficial to the consumer than not there won’t be bad outcomes (like, let’s say even if there is price fixing, it will need to be within the bounds established such that consumers are still benefitting only slightly less than in a perfectly competitive market [the degree to which is dependent on the established ratio]).
The issue is that surplus metrics are next to impossible to measure real time. However, a horrible analog (but still a hell of a lot better than nothing) is consumer sentiment.
Now, getting consumer sentiment is extremely difficult, but for large enough companies (like the kind that would take a while for market forces to overcome their anticompetitive actions) national sentiment could be a close analog.
So, and again this is just a thought experiment, what if we voted on spontaneous liquidation of companies? Basically, what if every election cycle there was a ballot measure saying something like, “please list the top 5 companies you would like to see gone” and if a company is included in some set percentage of the populations’ lists all of their assets are to be liquidated and distributed amongst shareholders within a set time period. None of the money anyone made is lost, simply the company itself (which I understand is still a big deal, I’m just saying, I’m not suggesting wiping someone’s life).
Some of the benefits I can see are:
It incentivizes companies to make people happy (while this isn’t always analagous generally it will mean that they are “playing nice” in competition).
All other anti-trust actions happening by the government right now would be wiped in favor of this (I’m not saying this is what would happen, I’m saying this is what I’m proposing to do in this thought experiment).
Many shitty things that every big company are doing would be brought to the forefront as every company would be incentivized to dig up as much dirt on their competition as possible (this is similar to The Prisoner’s Dilemma; however, there is also the chance they both “lose” if the public doesn’t like them purposely keeping quiet, so in the end there is a slight incentive to convince the public their competitor is worse than them while hiding as many of their own secrets as possible).
There is even the potential for large-scale negative externalities to be addressed (smaller-scale negative externalities could be addressed if carefully catered versions of this are applied locally as well [State, County]) as people respond to negative effects (for instance, if a company were to start dumping waste in water supplies it’s going to hurt their chances in the vote).
While not removing a bad-acting individual’s ability to participate in the market directly, if they are the primary reason for the outcome of the vote it will ruin their chances of receiving investments for reentering the market (essentially indirectly punishing bad-actors).
It is also difficult to use corruption here, aside from outright manipulating the vote. The percentage of population vote will be set (meaning any change of it will be known and seen by the general public fairly easily).
I can also see a number of negatives (not including the ethical issues). I suspect I will be downvoted past oblivion for the mere proposal of this idea, but if you are still reading I’d love to hear what you’re thinking. What are the negatives? What are the positives? Where are the pain points (in other words, where/how can it be taken advantage of)?
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society