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A national labour shortage is an odd time to argue that some workers don’t have enough job options. But that’s what the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is doing—specifically, it’s worried about the prospects of aspiring authors. Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House are hoping to merge, but antitrust officials are suing to block the deal. The DoJ argues the merger would further concentrate the publishing industry and the result would be smaller advances for authors and less diverse books.

This is the latest twist in modern antitrust enforcement, which is no longer just concerned about consumers paying too much. The latest suit argues workers would have less power in a more concentrated market and that does them harm. It’s true there is more market consolidation, but it’s not clear this hurts authors. Modern antitrust often feels like a solution in search of a problem. This case is an example.

Market concentration is not limited to publishing. More than 75% of US industries have fewer firms than in the 1990s. Traditionally, when a few firms dominate an industry, it means concentrated market power and customers paying more. This time consumers may pay less for many goods, such as books, but there is reason to worry that workers could be harmed. The DoJ and Federal Trade Commission have started to take an active interest in labour market competition. Over the years, quite a few economists have become concerned about increased monopsony power when there are fewer firms hiring people, which they argue holds down wages. Indeed, there is evidence suggesting that more concentrated industries have seen a bigger decline in labour’s share of income.

But before the government stops this merger, we need to understand why bigger firms are doing so well and if they’re actually hurting workers. Big is not necessarily bad and the fact that labour’s share of income has fallen could just reflect a world where labour is less valuable.

The rise in market concentration didn’t arise from unchecked market power. A more likely explanation is that the world changed and market structures changed with it. A global technology-driven world created a winner-take-all economy. The ability to reach customers all over the world offers big rewards to companies that can scale up quickly. This is in part because of network effects—your product is more valuable if lots of people use it. More users also means scale and access to data. In such markets, bigger firms will have some clear advantages. Big publishers claim they need to merge to take advantage of the scale it would offer in order to take on, which is pinching publishers’ profits by lowering book prices and getting into the publishing business itself.

Reducing industry concentration will not change global economic trends or turn the clock back on technology. And it’s not necessarily true that workers need to be protected by policy.

First, winner-take-all firms tend to pay better. If you’re lucky enough to work for one, your wages will rise faster. One study estimates that one third of the growth of income inequality comes from the difference between people who work at superstar firms and everyone else. If big firms were using their power to under-pay workers, they’d pay less, not more. Perhaps breaking them up would make big firms less productive and that would lessen disparities across firms. But that would harm the economy.

Second, even if there are fewer employers on the national level, a recent paper estimates there are more employers at the local level. Before, if you lived in a smallish town, maybe you could work at the local hardware store. Now there’s Home Depot and Lowes as well. What looks like more concentration nationally can mean more local competition. It’s bad for small local businesses, but better for employees because there’s more demand for their work and larger companies offer better stability and higher pay.

Third, in some ways workers have more power than ever. Technology makes it possible to search and sell your services to more employers, whether it’s gig and contract work or just job-posting websites. The market for books is one example. Authors don’t need big publishers as much as they used to. Self-publishing has become more widely accepted, and more easily done with Amazon and Substack. Social media and podcasts have levelled the playing field when it comes to book promotion.

There’s reason to be concerned about concentration. It may lower competition in some cases, but it’s not necessarily bad for workers. If that’s a key justification for blocking the publishing industry’s mega merger, there are better uses of government resources.

Allison Schrager is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of ’An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk’.

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