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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. is the best major country in the world to be a giant private-sector monopoly. That's one message sent by Judge James Boasberg of the Federal District Court in D.C. on Monday, when he tossed out an FTC antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.

Why it matters: There are deep structural reasons America's laws-based antitrust system finds it incredibly hard to hobble monopolists, especially ones that give their products away free.

  • Monopolistic behavior has to be found to be illegal by a judge in a court hearing — and there's a very good chance that the judge will subscribe to Robert Bork's antitrust doctrine, under which consumer harm needs to be shown in the form of higher consumer prices.

What they're saying: "Numerous hard-wired differences between the European and American enforcement regimes make it very difficult for U.S. antitrust enforcement agencies to emulate their EU counterparts," wrote antitrust experts Gregory Werden and Luke Froeb in an article in 2019.

  • In 10 different areas, they found it much easier to crack down on large monopolies in Europe than in the U.S.

Be smart: The Chinese government finds it easier still. A single request from the Chinese Communist Party will normally get it exactly what it wants.

The big picture: European antitrust measures are decided by politicians; in the U.S. it's up to judges.

  • Antitrust is seen in Europe as regulation — an ongoing effort by the government — rather than enforcement, which first requires a finding of illegal behavior.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Sam Ro: U.S. regulators have a poor track record of successfully going after big companies for alleged antitrust violations, and the markets get this. On the other hand, it's usually more serious when the E.U. probes a company or China threatens a ban. Foreign regulators seem to be far more effective at bringing the hammer down on U.S. companies.

The bottom line: The American system is largely built on the premise that large corporations are a good and healthy part of society unless proved otherwise. Europe — and even China — are much less likely to believe that.

Go deeper

FTC releases findings on how Big Tech eats little tech

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: An Rong Xu/Washington Post via Getty Images

Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan signaled changes are on the way in how the agency scrutinizes acquisitions after revealing the results of a study of a decade's worth of Big Tech company deals that weren't reported to the agency.

Why it matters: Tech's business ecosystem is built on giant companies buying up small startups, but the message from the antitrust agency this week could chill mergers and acquisitions in the sector.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker