A review of the themes and topics that occupied our coverage in 2023.

ProMarket published 301 articles in 2023, covering everything from the failure of the meme stocks movement to revolutionize the boardroom to why television isn’t as good as it was back in the day (spoiler: this one actually isn’t millennials’ fault). However, there were some topics we kept on returning to. Here’s a review of ProMarket in 2023. 

ProMarket kicked off the year asking a group of scholars to discuss the revival of industrial policy following the suite of bills passed by the United States Congress in 2021 and 2022, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. The contributors discussed how the Biden administration could implement its industrial policy to avoid industry capture, reshore supply chains without jeopardizing efficiencies, and learn from the past successes and mistakes of industrial policy interventions. We capped our Industrial Policy series with a webinar hosted by our very own contributor editor Walter Frick.

Two tech cases occupied our antitrust coverage last winter: Meta-Within and the Google AdTech lawsuit. In the former, the Federal Trade Commission lost its effort to block Meta’s purchase of virtual fitness reality app developer Within. Our writers puzzled over how the FTC could have made its case when it was seeking to predict the dynamics of a market that does not yet exist. In the latter case, the Department of Justice and eight states sued Google for monopolizing key digital advertising tech to dominate the digital advertising market. The plaintiffs are suing for damages and demanding a trial by jury. The trial is expected to commence next summer. Our contributors debated the merits of the government’s case and the meaning of the “unprecedented” request for damages and jury trial.

In early March, Silicon Valley Bank imploded in spectacular fashion. Rising interest rates pushed the depositors—many uninsured, some in need of funding—at SVB to pull their cash, leading to a bank run. Several other banks, including Signature and First Republic, followed SVB to the auction block. Our writers asked how SVB and the Fed failed to see this coming, gauged the risk of industry contagion, explored how social media may have contributed to the run, and advised how the banking industry could avoid similar crises in the future.

The banking industry wasn’t the only economic institution that came under duress this year. In 2022, the Stigler Center, home to ProMarket, hosted its annual antitrust conference asking if the consumer welfare standard, which has underpinned merger review with its focus on the effects of business conduct on consumer prices, output, innovation, and quality, was dead. At our 2023 conference last April, the Stigler Center asked participants to suggest what alternative standards could replace the consumer welfare standard (which many antitrust scholars and practitioners think is neither dead nor should be killed off). ProMarket published the papers submitted to the conference as well as the opinions of other conference participants and ProMarket readers.

School may have been out for summer, but that did not slow us down. This year, industry and the public grappled with the ascent and application of artificial intelligence software, such as ChatGPT. Professors fretted that students may relegate their essays to AI. Other writers and editors worried that a computer could at last write better copy. Here at ProMarket, where the editors are indispensable, we were concerned about how AI would alter competition and facilitate collusion. In our Computational Antitrust Series, our contributors contended with AI’s potential to facilitate anticompetitive behaviors and how regulators could not only prevent such market harms but harness AI to do so.

Talking about never resting, the FTC and DOJ Antitrust Division dropped the hottest record of the year (sorry, Swifties) when they released the draft Merger Guidelines on July 19. The Merger Guidelines inform businesses, the courts, and the public how the antitrust agencies intend to review mergers and acquisitions for anticompetitive behavior. The 2023 Merger Guidelines received a range of responses—some critical, some supportive—but what everyone seemed to agree on was that they represented a drastic shift in ethos and style from earlier Guidelines. To help make sense of the draft Guidelines, ProMarket hosted a two-round symposium with 12 antitrust experts and a webinar to finish things off…for now. Bethany McLean and Luigi Zingales also interviewed the chief economist of the DOJ Antitrust Division, Susan Athey, for Capitalisn’t.

Two more cases caught our eye as we entered the final stretch of the year. Google returned to the antitrust agencies’ crosshairs in what some called the most important antitrust trial of the 21st century. The DOJ had sued Google for using illegal strategies (paying billions of dollars to Apple and other web browser-owning firms) to monopolize the search market. One of the most interesting facets of the trial was Google’s efforts to keep evidence from the public eye. Our writers discussed what remedies might look like if Google is found liable and how the case exemplifies the importance of incorporating behavioral economics into the antitrust literature.

In the other case, our writers discussed grocers Kroger and Albertsons proposed merger. Do the two grocers’ claims that their merger will reduce prices for consumers hold water (or just raise prices for other grocers in the so-called “waterbed effect”)? What about the impact on workers and suppliers? 

And finally, in the eleventh hour, the FTC and DOJ Antitrust Division got in on the holiday cheer and delivered the final version of the 2023 Merger Guidelines. Read here an explanation of what changed between the draft and final versions from Susan Athey and Director of the FTC Bureau of Economics Aviv Nevo. Also check out some early responses to the final version from our contributors.  

It was a busy year at ProMarket, and we are thankful to you all for joining us. If you haven’t already, subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Special Interest, to keep up-to-date on all things antitrust and political economy. See you again in 2024.