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We’ve got two segments today. First up, I spoke to to Alexandra Reeve Givens from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) on last week’s Summit for Democracy. And second, I spoke with Marshall Steinbaum, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Utah about market and monopoly power, tech platforms and antitrust.
On December 9-10, 2021, President Biden held the first of two planned Summits for Democracy to bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to work out an agenda for democratic renewal and collaboration. A guest list for the Summit released by the State Department included 110 countries.
This is urgent work. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s Democracy Index, in 2020 only “8.4% of the world’s population live in a full democracy while more than a third live under authoritarian rule.” Across the 167 nations EIU surveyed, the global score that assesses the health of democracy was “the lowest recorded since the index began in 2006.” Another measure, produced by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg, finds that the “level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2020 is down to levels last found around 1990.” The nonpartisan group Freedom House surveys of nations around the world annually to measure the health of democracy. According to The Washington Post, in the last ten years, the United States’ score on a scale of 0 to 100 has gone from 94 to 83. The United States now ranks 53rd globally in the state of its democracy.
To learn more about the Summit, I spoke to Alexandra Reeve Givens. Alex is President & CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, or CDT, an organization that promotes democratic values by shaping technology policy. Prior to joining CDT, Alex served as the founding Executive Director of the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law, and previously served as Chief Counsel for IP and Antitrust on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In the second segment, we explore another set of issues driving the tech agenda these days: market and monopoly power and how such power expresses itself through today’s tech platforms. To do that I spoke with Marshall Steinbaum, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Utah and a Senior Fellow in Higher Education Finance at Jain Family Institute. According to his bio, his research investigates the existence and implications of employer power in labor markets, with applications to antitrust, higher education, and student debt. He writes on inequality, antitrust, labor markets, and the history of economic ideas. He just put forward a new working paper titled “Establishing Market and Monopoly Power in Tech Platform Antitrust Cases”. The paper says “The aim of this article is to characterize how market power should be measured in light of platform multi-sidedness, and why existing antitrust tools, caselaw, and the economic assumptions underlying both are not well-suited to that task.”
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.