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Is Amazon morally wrong but legally right?

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It’s time to take a step back.

Is it possible that amidst the deafening uproar over the DOJ’s suit – the protestations, the criticism, the comparisons – we’re missing the point? That, as much as book lovers love to hate Amazon, the online bookseller – and the Justice Department – may be actually be in the right?

That’s what Thomas Catan argues in a lucid, cogent must-read in the Wall Street Journal titled “Experts Say Government Had Little Choice in E-Books Lawsuit.”

At the root of this criticism is a misperception of the antitrust law, writes Catan.

U.S. antitrust law doesn't seek to protect little companies against big ones, or even struggling ones against successful ones. Companies can grow as large as they want, as long as they do it through lower prices, better service or niftier innovations. Companies can even become monopolies, as long as they don't get there illegally or try to extend their power by unlawfully stifling competition.”

In other words, just because Amazon dominates the book market and drives smaller competitors out of business through its low prices and convenience doesn’t make its actions illegal.

(As Herbert Hovenkamp, a law professor at the University of Iowa, told the Journal, “The goal of antitrust policy is to protect consumer prices. It's not to protect inefficient firms from having to exit the market.”)

What’s more, writes the Journal, “antitrust lawyers scoff at the notion that the Justice Department would refrain from bringing a case if it believes it has solid evidence."

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