The curse of American monopolies

Three quarters of all US industries became more concentrated between 1997 and 2012. Ten pharmaceutical companies control the production and sales of the world’s medicine. Three chemical companies control the supply of seeds and pesticides. One corporation controls nearly all the non-craft beer for sale on the planet. Industrial concentration has now reached the highest level in a century. Large companies restrict (or discourage) private initiative, restrict competition and innovation – and on top of all that they are inefficient, cumbersome and frustrating to deal with. My personal bete noir is Verizon (phone and internet), was originally part of the massive monopoly Ma Bell. This was broken up only to be resurrected in the form of a duopoly with AT&T.

After the Second World War a vibrant anti-monopoly policy was regarded as essential for a thriving democracy, This policy ruled until the early 1980s, when right wing economists and politicians, led by Robert Bork and the Chicago school of economics, managed to persuade the Republican party that monopoly power was not only legal but a positive good, and that capitalism self-regulates. According to the new Bork paradigm “the opportunity to charge monopoly prices…induces risk taking that produces innovation and economic growth”. In fact monopolies block competition, erect barriers to entry and dampen economic growth. But put loyal Fepublican voters at the top of monopoly companies and you have a steady and reliable source of election funding, and an army of sympathetic and well-funded lobbyists, aside from anything else.

In the best interests of the nation? The policy of true patriots? Decide for yourself.

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