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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
In a remarkable display of firepower, big companies are subjecting each other to charges of monopolistic behavior with a zest rivaling that of regulators.
What's happening: In both the U.S. and Europe, politicians and regulators are ratcheting up to curtail the market power of Big Tech and other industries. But even before they are fully engaged, market actors from college athletes to smartphone parts suppliers and newspaper publishers are taking matters into their own hands.
The backstory: In the U.S., antitrust litigation — along with other action meant to thwart perceived monopolistic behavior — has been around since the Sherman Act of 1890 first established major guardrails against market concentration.
But the current spate of threats and lawsuits are part of an anti-monopoly zeitgeist not seen on this scale since perhaps the 1930s.
What has attracted much less recognition is the scale on which businesses and organizations themselves are getting ahead of the government. Apple is on both sides in some of them. Here are two:
An unusual, long-running case: Since 2014, a group of college football and basketball players have been suing the NCAA, which they accuse of colluding to unfairly limit how much money they can receive. The players argued that this practice restrains the market, and results in subpar teams, since colleges can't fully compete for athletes, nor athletes for the colleges.
What's next: Jon Solomon, editorial director of the Sports & Society Program at the Aspen Institute, says pressure is building in Congress to allow college athletes to make money off their own names, images and likenesses. He said that athletes themselves could also one day boycott their sport.
Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/Getty
Most Americans will file their income taxes by midnight tonight, and employers will report their payroll taxes later this month. But companies that have replaced or expanded their flesh-and-blood staff with robots will get a free pass.
Kaveh writes: Amid fears of automation-fueled job loss, a once-fringe debate is exploding into public view: Why don't we tax the bots?
The big picture: For over a century and a half, the United States has taxed income, first to fund war and later to build up the country's coffers. But now, some experts say it's time to reevaluate who — or what — should be taxed.
"It's a bit like polluting the environment," says James Manyika, director of the McKinsey Global Institute. Companies will choose cheap, dirty fossil fuels over clean energy unless there are incentives not to — just like they'll likely choose to automate away jobs.
Detractors, however, say a tax could stall innovation at a time when China is unwaveringly pushing to dominate AI and robotics.
What's next: Watch this debate head to Washington.
Go deeper: A Yale professor argues for the robot tax (The Guardian)
Payless will close 2,100 stores this year. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty
In terms of brick-and-mortar retail, 2019 store closings have already outdone last year: almost 6,000 stores are in the throes of being shut down, compared with 5,854 in 2018, reports the NYT's Sapna Maheshwari.
But there is also a rhythm to how stores close, Maheshwari writes:
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
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River Plate fans and the team, Buenos Aires, Dec 23, 2018. Photo: Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty
A fan for the Buenos Aires soccer team River Plate went viral when someone shot and tweeted a video of his right leg — with a tattooed QR code of his team beating hated rival Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores tournament final in Madrid.
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