In America, the consumer is king, writes Steve Chapman.

This has not always been true. Producers once reigned supreme. When I took economics in college in the 1970s, my instructors continually highlighted the danger of large firms that could restrict production to keep prices unreasonably high. This was often taken as proof of the need for strict government regulation.

Monopolies and oligopolies were seen as a constant threat, and with some reason. In one major industry after another—cars, steel, oil, telecommunications, computers—there were only a few relevant firms, and they divided up growing markets without much fear of competition.