(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Cornered: by Barry C. Lynn
From Thomas Frank’s review in the WSJ:
‘If monopoly persists, monopoly will always sit at the helm of the government,” Woodrow Wilson once wrote. “If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it.”
This was the great, consuming fear of the once-robust antitrust movement: that competition would be destroyed and government itself brought to heel by concentrated private power. That movement was a force to be reckoned with in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but after World War II the public’s dread of bigness seemed to fade away.
…Barry C. Lynn’s recent book … arises directly from the old antitrust tradition, and it presents us with an amazing catalogue of present-day monopolies, oligopolies and economic combinations. Its subjects are, by definition, some of the largest and most powerful organizations in the world. And yet almost none of it was familiar to me.
Mr. Lynn tells us, for example, about the power of single companies or small groups of companies over such disparate fields as eyeglasses, certain categories of pet food, washer-dryer sales, auto parts, many aspects of food processing, surfboards, medical syringes…
Mr. Lynn … describes companies that swallow their rivals and then, with competitive pressure diminished, set about “destroying product variety and diversity.” … We learn of entire industries where competitors have grown so close to one another that a collapse at one company would probably bring down many of the others as well.
This is, we are often reminded, a populist age, with fresh flare-ups of fury every time Wall Street bonuses hit the headlines. …Mr. Lynn’s anger at the Wall Street bailout, his fondness for small business, and his frequent homages to the nation’s founders may seem superficially similar to the attitudes of the tea party protesters. But Mr. Lynn also takes pains to demonstrate that the economic “freedom” so beloved by the snake-flag set has actually yielded the opposite of freedom: a “neofeudal” system of “private corporate governments” answerable to no one.
I must say that I have noticed such phenomena in numerous areas of our economy, especially foods. I also like the descriptor “the snake-flag set”. Needed work remains to be done in broadening the agenda of “the snake-flag set” to include all things that have given rise to the current corporatism, including the pivotal role of the Reagan Administration in getting this dynamic really rolling.