Dengler Domain: Anti- Trust

This year marks the last year the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma will be in the Big 12 Conference. They have been in this regional conference for almost 30 years. They leave for the Southeastern Conference on July 1, 2024, which is also the same year the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Southern California (USC) join the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten used to be a regional Midwest conference of 10 schools which currently stands at 14 schools including the schools it stretched its “Midwest” borders for which are the University of Maryland and Rutgers University located in New Jersey.

Neither of these conference changes feel right. The best part of college sports was the regionalism where schools close to each other played each other. Now, everything is a money grab for a larger audience. The Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 Conference (really the Pac-10), and before the merger Southeastern Conference, used to have their own region of the country. It is a sad tale of college sports catching up to the rest of American society.

There are warts from regionalism, but the beauty of the United States of America came from a country of different, individual states coming together to sharing an identity while retaining what specific identity from homebase. Break this down more into the individual communities who were settled by different immigrants from across the world. As the country has pushed towards a more nationalistic look from the airlines to cell phone companies to the media and even farms, it leaves the consumer hurting.

The more monopolistic or oligarchic the country has become, the more hollowing out of rural Iowa and rural states has happened. Companies focus on raising their stock prices which breeds more consolidation, less competition. It does not need to be this way.

According to The Atlantic, throughout the middle of the 20th century, the term monopoly was used frequently until around the 1970s when the enforcement of anti-monopoly policy grew

increasingly toothless. Monopolies used to be dreaded and were the bane of society. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said Americans were “no longer free” and throughout the nation, “opportunity was limited by monopoly.” Sound familiar?

What happened was when Ronald Reagan took office, he brought with him a new theory of antitrust enforcement put forward by Robert Bork, yes that Robert Bork, and them, and a new generation of like-minded congressional Democrats insisted big corporations delivered efficiencies that outweighed other concerns about their power.

Enough time has passed to prove this is not true. Hearing tales about rural Iowa and its small towns and its greatness came before the time when antitrust enforcement became a moot point. It is time for the big corporations and big money interests to play ball and stop taking away opportunities from the rest of society. It is not helping. According to The Atlantic, two corporations make 69 percent of the beer Americans drink, Walmart captures half or more of grocery spending in 40 metro areas, and 75 percent of households have, at most, only one provider to choose from for high-speed internet access . This is a problem.

These are the facts, but with your own eyes, go drive into the country and count how many empty homesteads sit in a square mile or how many national chains are showing up in towns like Dollar Generals. If you want to use your ears, ask any farmer about where they get the seed. There is a strong chance the brand will fall under Corteva or Bayer. America thrived with regionalism and competition. Congress might not be able to stop the NCAA from becoming two super conferences, but it can enforce antitrust laws. It is what the United States needs now more than ever.

Sean Dengler is a writer, comedian, farmer, and host of the Pandaring Talk podcast who grew up on a farm between Traer and Dysart. You can reach him at sean.h.dengler@gmail.com.