Monopolies again, and why they are un-Epicurean

Contrary to impressions outside the US America is a very expensive country. Mobile phones, for instance cost on average $100 a month, twice the cost of a similar service in France and Germany.  Healthcare costs are huge. I recently spent ten minutes with a foot doctor for correcting an in-growing toenail, billed at $473.00   Pharmaceuticals can cost twice as much in the US than they do in Europe.  Investment in the US has been falling for 20 years.  Because prices are so high wages buy less. The income of workers, unless they can borrow (and borrowing on credit cards is massive), gets squeezed in real terms while those at the top get paid more and more.  Inequality is growing  to unsupportable levels.  Even life expectancy is falling; suicides are growing in number.

The root cause, many believe, is the huge cost of American elections.  Corporations back candidates generously, but expect a quid pro quo, which means protection from competition and an astonishing hands-off policy on acquisitions and mergers.

Some years ago I was introduced to a neighbour, who worked for the government on mergers and acquisitions.  I was a bit cheeky on a first meeting and told him I thought the scale of merger activity was really bad for the country, and I wished him luck in scaling it back.  Well, if looks could kill!  He left me in no doubt that his job was to encourage mergers! And that was a under Obama!

So , having invested in Candidate X every company wants its pound of flesh, and generally gets the green light. The result is a skewed economy and a less well off population in dire financial situations – less security, more hours, lower real wages, chronic anxiety and, a rising tide of desperation and suicide.

Epicurus, were he alive today, might well comment, “That’s politics for you. Stay away from them”.  I would reply, “But it is not just business as usual.  It’s in process of making  America a second class power.  But everyone looks the other way, as they do on the scary subject of global climate change”.



  1. I don’t dispute that elections are not only far too expensive but that the influence of money is destroying our political system. But after doing some research — Googling, actually 😉 — I found that living in the U.S. is actually not as expensive as you might think, relative to other major industrialized nations.

    Take a look at the Cost of Living Index by Country, 2019 ( The first thing I noticed is that the U.S. is indeed far down on the list, at 71.05, ranking at 113 out of 132 nations ranked. But there are still many peer nations ranked lower, including Australia, France, S. Korea, Japan, and the Nordic countries.

    But take a look at the last column, Local Purchasing Power Index. This takes into account wages relative to costs. This is a much more revealing measure, as cheap prices are meaningless if workers can’t earn enough to buy bread. By this measure, the U.S. is stellar, ranking third behind only Switzerland and Qatar. Interestingly, Switzerland is also burdened with the highest cost of living, showing why that number alone is misleading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.