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Antitrust in perspective

“In tech we don’t trust” (November 27) referred to Joe Biden’s “antitrust revitalization” and quoted Barry Lynn as saying the president “grew up under extremely aggressive anti-monopoly enforcement regimes” . Antitrust policy in the United States has never matched Mr. Lynn’s description. Proponents of reform assume that the decades immediately following World War II were the heyday of antitrust. However, Richard Hofstadter already described antitrust in a well-known 1964 essay as a “faded passion”.

In 1966, Art Buchwald, a newspaper comedian, predicted that in 1978 the two remaining American companies would merge and that if the resulting company sought to buy the United States, the Department of Justice “would naturally study this merger to see if it violates our strict antitrust laws. ”. So if Mr. Biden is “really going to grow up on big tech” the way you describe, his actions would be more original than you suggest.

BRIAN CHEFFINS
Professor of corporate law
Cambridge University

The potential of European tech startups is enormous, especially if they play on Europe’s strengths and demonstrate to skeptics that they can be category leaders (“Renaissance”, November 27). This is particularly true in disruptive technologies, such as smart mobility, smart manufacturing, digital health and especially the energy transition.

That said, the weight of the success of Europe’s entrepreneurial renaissance should not rest solely on the shoulders of the startups themselves. Governments, regulators and businesses must play their part in creating the right environment to foster and invest in innovation. Otherwise, the sparkling potential of today’s startup market will quickly collapse.

JEAN MARC OLLAGNIER
General manager
Europe, Accent
Paris

Flocking in Beijing

The public is increasingly interested in birds and biodiversity in Beijing (“Shout it from the Rooftops,” November 27). The Chinese capital is located on the East Asia-Australasian Flyway, a highway for migrating birds that fly from breeding areas in Siberia to non-breeding areas in China, Southeast Asia, Australasia and Africa. Beijing is a gas station on this highway and therefore has a responsibility to provide a variety of habitats to support this epic biannual migration.

Most of the smaller species migrate at night, invisible while the townspeople sleep. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank rooftop night bird call recording project is designed to better understand the volume, species diversity and timing of this invisible migration, providing useful data for the management of Beijing’s green spaces. Well-maintained parks may appeal to a traditional aesthetic, but they are of little value to birds and other wildlife.

To ensure Beijing plays its role in providing safe passage for migrating birds, a more diverse flora is needed, including a variety of native or near-native habitats. This means not only the forest, but also the meadows and scrub. With enlightened land management policies, Beijing could become a capital of biodiversity.

HUA FANGYUAN
Senior Lecturer in Conservation Ecology
Peking University

TERRY TOWNSHEND
Wildlife curator
Beijing

Questionable dealers

My only gripe with Bartleby’s excellent thoughts on lessons from Theranos (December 11) is whether Charismatic Leader Selling Empty Promises is a phenomenon of the Silicon Valley community. Albert Dunlap, Bernard Ebbers and Jeffrey Skilling are all relatively recent examples of charismatic charlatans who have bamboozled the investment community. To paraphrase Mike in David Mamet’s “House of Games”, a trust trick is a fair trade: you give me your money, and I give you my trust.

JONATHAN CATHERWOOD
Middleburg, Virginia

Singapore’s democracy

In an overview of the state of democracy in Southeast Asia, Banyan included Singapore among the region’s “Leninist dictatorships”, albeit allegedly “the tongue in cheek” (December 18). If this were true, one wonders why dozens of foreign journalists – and media platforms like the BBC and Bloomberg – find it pleasant to settle in Singapore. Indeed, we have just received a visa application from another of your regional correspondents to be based in Singapore.

For more than six decades, Singapore has never failed to organize regular general elections: almost alone among its neighbors. The most recent, in 2020, has been vigorously contested, with the opposition winning more seats than in any other election since 1963. Singapore has also not experienced a state of emergency or seen its constitution suspended.
These embarrassing facts should surely have been reported in a column deploring the decline of democracy in Asia.

TK LIM
Singapore High Commissioner
London

Brussels does good

Charlemagne’s column “On bullshit: Brussels edition” (December 4) was a sarcastic and distorted caricature of Brussels. Yes, there is a lot of bureaucracy, although the facility serving almost 450 million people is about as large as the local authority serving Birmingham. Yes, it often takes several hours to reach consensus among 27 independent member states, although a deal is undoubtedly a little easier now that those traditional troublemakers, the British, are gone.

The Global Gateway initiative is easy to laugh at without analysis. What if some of them relate to existing commitments? And what is wrong with a “Team Europe approach”? No mention was made of the billions of euros invested each year by the European Investment Bank in infrastructure and in a wide range of other projects, both within the EU and, to a lesser extent, in developing countries. Also no mention of the remarkable strength and consistency throughout the EU in the protracted Brexit negotiations with Britain. No mention of the massive 750 million euro ($ 850 million) grant and loan recovery program to counter the effects of the pandemic. This, too, was only accepted after hours and hours of tedious negotiations, but it did command Germany’s crucial assent to a significant piece of mutualized debt, a concession that there are good chances that the new German government will maintain.

No mention of the fact that although the commission was slow to establish a EU-a comprehensive vaccination program that was fair to all Member States, the EU has now largely caught up with Britain. And finally, no mention that, even in the case of Poland and Hungary, no member state shows the slightest sign of wanting to follow Great Britain out of the EU.

SIR BRIAN UNWIN
President of the European Investment Bank, 1993-2000
Dorking, Surrey

Historical revisionism

I thank Bello (December 4) for raising the issue of metis (Métis) culture in the Spanish-speaking world. mestizo (blending) has probably been the most important nation-building factor for Latin American countries and the notion that binds us all together. Yet awakened battlefields have reached our region, with the usual tactics of manipulation and denial. As a recent example, the government of Mexico City decided to remove a statue of Columbus from the main avenue, replacing it with that of an indigenous woman. Children’s history books present pre-Columbian civilizations as noble savages who lived peacefully until the arrival of the conquistadors.

It is undeniable that racism and classism prevail in Latin America, but the sectarian vision of the awakened left only feeds a fire that must be brought under control with a conciliatory but critical vision of our past.

AURELIO ORTIZ CAMACHO
La Paz, Mexico

A bit of random humor

Regarding the article on randomness (“Flipping heck!”, December 4), it should be noted that according to Robert Coveyou, the generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.

BILL STONE
Santa Rosa, California

This article appeared in the Letters section of the print edition under the title “On antitrust, Chinese birds, confidence tricks, Singapore, the EU, Latin America, random numbers”

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