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“No matter your business, you cannot stay still for any length of time or your competitors will scratch and claw all over you.” Those are the words of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank.

Blank’s admonition about the horrors of stasis is a crucial reminder to those in government trying to restrain the evolution of commerce today. Specifically, the remarkably prosperous present is already the past in a business sense. As you’re enjoying all manner of goods and services that past generations would have marveled at, never forget that entrepreneurs and businesses are working feverishly to replace them with much better.

It’s something to keep in mind as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers aggressively get to work on blocking the merger of credit card giants Capital One and Discover. Warren et al claim that the combination could shrink banking and credit card choices for customers, all the while burdening those customers with higher fees. In the words of Warren and her allies on Capitol Hill in a memo to the Biden administration, “To protect consumers and financial stability, we urge you to block this merger and strengthen your proposed policy statement to prevent harmful deals in the future.”

All of which requires a pause. Before getting into why Senator Warren’s opposition to the merger is wrongheaded, it’s useful to think about why Capital One and Discover are presently so prosperous. They’re sizable precisely because they offer a miraculous service that makes life easier and better for consumers and the businesses they patronize. Think about it. With a credit card in your hand issued by either Capital One or Discover, you the consumer are able walk into businesses around the world, only to walk out with the goods or services of your choice. These same cards also allow you to contact businesses around the world either by phone or on the internet, only to have their goods and services subsequently reach you instantaneously, or within days.

The happy, unsung truth ignored by lawmakers is that Capital One and Discover are thriving because they offer an essential service whereby they finance customer purchases all over the world, and at any time. It’s also worth considering all of this from the standpoint of businesses that swipe credit cards issued by Discover and Capital One. Think how much more they can sell each day thanks to the existence of credit card companies willing and able to finance consumer purchases.

What a change all of this is from the not-too-distant past. No doubt some readers remember how, as the 20th century came to a close, the vast majority of transactions were still completed with checks delivered by the U.S. Postal Service, and with delivery timeframes that were often longer than the time it took a check to reach intended merchant by mail. In the 1987 film 84 Charing Cross Road, a transatlantic transaction between a lover of books and a bookseller was snail’s pace slow as letters crossed the oceans, checks, and so on. Thank goodness for credit cards and increasingly costless communication that shrink the world – and by extension, the time it takes to transact - by the day.

At the same time, it’s worth noting just how different commerce was not terribly long ago, and before credit cards reduced so much friction and delay when it came to buying and selling. It’s a reminder of the Blank quote that begins this piece: “you cannot stay still for any length of time” without facing obsolescence. This reality of commerce is seemingly being glossed over by Warren and other opponents of the planned Capital One-Discover tie-up. The simple truth is that if the aim of the two corporations were to combine operations to in order to rest on their successful laurels all the while achieving cost savings born of the mothballing of redundant operations, it’s unlikely the merger would be taking place. No one would finance it, not to mention that the respective boards of each corporation wouldn’t sign off on the combination.

That is so simply because the present as we know it is yet again already the past when it comes to business. Capital One and Discover aren’t merging to dominate the present, rather they’re combining in an effort to discover an always opaque future. The happy reality is that just as the late 1990s are “another country” relative to 2024 in a how-we-transact sense, so does 2034 promise to render 2024 primitive by comparison.

Contra the analysis of Elizabeth Warren, mergers aren’t essential as a tool of commerce to maintain one’s dominance in a business-world defined by impregnable frontiers, rather they’re a way for businesses to compete in a world defined by relentless change. In short, Warren’s efforts to block Capital One-Discover won’t restrain the creation of monopoly, but it will render both companies quite a bit more vulnerable to a future that no one, least of all Warren, is certain of.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, President of the Parkview Institute, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book, set for release in April of 2024 and co-authored with Jack Ryan, is Bringing Adam Smith Into the American Home: A Case Against Homeownership

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