[Ebook] ↠ The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age Author Tim Wu – Writerscompany.co.uk

The history of monopoly in the US began as an economics eugenics movement targeting those seen as unfit to deserve industrial life, Tim Wu writes in The Curse of Bigness Antitrust in the New Gilded Age Wu s book, a history of monopoly power and public policy in America from the late 1800s onward, is particularly useful to revisit in this current age of tech firms, big pharma, and airline monopolies Its also illuminating in showing how tussles over market concentration created openings in th The history of monopoly in the US began as an economics eugenics movement targeting those seen as unfit to deserve industrial life, Tim Wu writes in The Curse of Bigness Antitrust in the New Gilded Age Wu s book, a history of monopoly power and public policy in America from the late 1800s onward, is particularly useful to revisit in this current age of tech firms, big pharma, and airline monopolies Its also illuminating in showing how tussles over market concentration created openings in the modern American economy that made possible the tech and internet industries that exist today When the push to consolidate economic power first began termed the Trust movement , America was a nation of decentralized and distributed economic activity, dominated by many small producers These farmers, professional service providers, and shop owners were scattered throughout the country, working for themselves and trading amongst each other and spreading prosperity over the continent But it was not to last Clever financiers including J.P Morgan believed that, just as man had come from apes, monopolies were the natural evolutionary outcome of competition, and a society run by monopolies was one ruled by the strong So they set about purchasing, consolidating or if they couldn t do that destroying small firms in order to organize them into larger Trust companies to capture market power As Wu shows us, in the decade between 1895 and 1904, 2,274 firms merged into 157 corporations a number of which you d recognize as still in business today.As trusts gained ever power, they exerted political power as well, and this political power began overriding democratic will When Teddy Roosevelt took the reins after President McKinley s assassination, he was determined to take the power back for government, asserting that a majoritarian government must lead the country and that corporations must be accountable to the government, not the other way around These were the first shots fired as the antitrust battles began in earnest.These early antitrust fights are anything but boring, and Wu does a great job illuminating the price fixing, industrial sabotage, train accidents and cabals that led to the Rockefellers and Cowboy presidents, the insidiousness of IBM and Microsoft s microserfs, and Jeff Bezos mapping a plan fors growth by first drawing a map of antitrust laws, and then devising routes to smoothly bypass them Wu shows how monopoly power has shaped the modern economy, and also shows how these antitrust laws that are still on the books have become sporadically enforced, highly partisan, and frequently under attack, particularly since the presidency of Bush 43 It s been two decades since a big anti trust case has been prosecuted by the government, thanks to these shifting opinions amongst lawmakers and the judiciary And as a result,than 75 percent of industries have achieved increased concentration, and industries with large increases in concentration now enjoy higher profit margins and high value merger deals This book shows there s a path away from our extreme economic concentration, using laws we ve had on the books for over a hundred years The question is if anyone will garner the political will to do something with them Read my longer review of this book here Once upon a time, in the 1990s and 2000s, the Web and the Internet were new and everything was going to be different forever Very comprehensive and consise, suitable for non experts to understand the history and development of American antitrust law and policy, from the breakup of the first trusts of Rockfeller and Morgan to the time of tech industry giants like Google and Facebook and the role of the law in preserving the very structure of competition. As the ideological tectonic plates shift in America, many apparently settled matters have become unsettled This creates, at the same time, both conflict and strange bedfellows, though I suspect the latter will become used to each other soon enough Such once settled matters include hot button cultural matters like nationalism, but also dry, technical matters of little apparent general interest that are of profound actual importance Among these are the place in our society of concentrations of As the ideological tectonic plates shift in America, many apparently settled matters have become unsettled This creates, at the same time, both conflict and strange bedfellows, though I suspect the latter will become used to each other soon enough Such once settled matters include hot button cultural matters like nationalism, but also dry, technical matters of little apparent general interest that are of profound actual importance Among these are the place in our society of concentrations of economic and therefore political power, the subject of the excellent Tim Wu s awesome new book, The Curse of Bigness What Wu is hawking is Neo Brandeisianism, and I am buying what he is selling.Wu, a Columbia Law professor and sometime unsuccessful reformist Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York, writes mostly on the intersection of technology and social organization His most recent earlier book, The Attention Merchants, focused on the downsides of advertising in the modern world, especially as mediated by the Lords of Tech That book offered measured, practical ways to address the problems identified, which seems to be a Wu specialty This book focuses on economic concentration through its legal treatment, under antitrust law, for the past one hundred and thirty years.The Curse of Bigness is a short and punchy work Wu is an outstanding writer Woven throughout a history of antitrust are Wu s own insights and opinions, which he caps with specific and well thought out solutions The core argument of this book is that for the past several decades, antitrust law has become effectively neutered, administered not at all in the manner its original nineteenth century drafters intended Instead antitrust law has, lately, refused entirely to recognize the extremely pernicious societal effects of economic concentration, even though it was designed by Congress to address precisely those effects For my money, Wu is right on target, and, just as importantly, he provides building blocks for the political realignment in which social conservatives are aligning with economic liberals against the neoliberal corporatist elite.Wu begins with the pre antitrust era, when men such as J P Morgan and John D Rockefeller created massive enterprises as the United States industrialized, using grit along with bribes and coercion to build their concerns These men, who created various giant trusts a legal device for holding companies , thought that monopoly is awesome and competition is ruinous, for both business and society Instead, they could and should be relied upon to innovate, lower prices, and generally benefit everyone, along with themselves As the author notes, today Peter Thiel pushes this same line, which has worked very well for him Wu analyzes this as a form of Social Darwinism, closely tied to eugenics Rockefeller gave millions to sterilize the unfit The weak, the small, and the old fashioned businesses were all being swept away For some, this purge displaced not just old ways and inefficient businesses, but Christianity as well, with its regard for the disadvantaged and insistence on humility before God Modern conservatives have too often failed to appreciate the long term effects of worship of monopoly and consequent economic concentration, and that the logical end of this, Ayn Rand s Objectivism, is a very, very bad prescription for a flourishing humanity, whatever its theoretical appeal.One hundred and thirty years ago, though, Congress was not the do nothing group of shambling cretins it is now it was filled with, or at least led by, serious men who took their responsibility of governing seriously Thus, in 1890, due to concerns about these and many other trusts, which collectively dominated all relevant industry, we got the Sherman Act, which to this day on its face absolutely outlaws all actions in restraint of trade, as well as any monopoly or attempts to monopolize You ask, then, why are restraints of trade and monopolies all around us Don t worry Tim Wu has arrived to tell you why, clearly and succinctly.Before we get there, though, Wu takes a detour to lay the groundwork for his preferred philosophical position While this is a book about what the law is, it is just as much about what the law should be Wu s avatar is Louis Brandeis, who served on the Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939 Brandeis grew up in Louisville, when flyover country mattered He became a business lawyer for some decades, and observed first hand the growth of the trusts at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, unhampered by the Sherman Act, which was treated as merely hortatory Brandeis saw the trusts destroy small businesses, corrupt politics, and not in fact offer the efficiencies and benefits they claimed.I ve never really had much use for Brandeis his association with the destructive Progressive movement and his use of so called social science to decide strictly legal questions, thereby involving judges as ideological advocates in a legislative role and paving the road to the modern disastrous living Constitution, always left a bad taste in my mouth But Wu makes a good case that Brandeis s philosophy as it relates to economic concentration, totally aside from constitutional law, is both unanswerable and necessary for today Like Theodore Roosevelt, Brandeis is someone whom today s conservatives should at least partially embrace, rejecting country club Republicans who prostitute themselves, cheaply, to the neoliberal elite If Brandeis had a unifying principle, politically and economically, it isthat concentrated power is dangerous, that institutions should be built to human scale, and society should pursue human ends Every institution, public and private, runs the risks of taking on a life of its own, putting its own interests above those of the humans it was supposedly created to serve It should most definitely not be the role of judges to impose their own values against the expressed will of the legislature, but as Wu notes, Brandeis s philosophy here was,or less, the original legislative theory behind the Sherman Act and subsequent laws.Using Brandeis as his foundation, Wu is explicit about what he wants to build This book aspires to resurrect and try to renovate the lost tenets of the Brandeisian economic vision It envisions a vigorous, healthy economy, a skepticism of the self serving rhetoric projecting the romance of big business or the inevitability of monopoly, and, above all, a sensitivity to human ends As presented by Wu, Brandeis was profoundly conservative, or would be today, if placed next to today s Left For him, the very purpose of life was the building of good character and the development of self The ideal of democracy, he once said, should be the development of the individual for his own and the common good Not for Brandeis the modern progressive goal of everemancipation from unchosen bonds, of autonomic individualism enforced and empowered by the government His goal was not gaining everyoneatomized freedom, as the Left pushes today it was offering freedom in the Aristotelian sense, what was until recently the universal sense in the West, the freedom to choose rightly To make that choice possible, everyone had to have, Wu summarizes, sufficient liberties and adequate support to live meaningful, fulfilling lives Neither the government nor private enterprise should stifle opportunities for thriving and life Economic concentration, monopoly, was the origin of much such stifling, because it allowed big, impersonal, impervious businesses to dictate to both workers and consumers.I quibble with Wu in that, without discussion, several times he casually equates this set of goals with democracy Democracy may be a goal, in that one could argue though neither Wu nor, in his telling, Brandeis, does so argue that democracy enhances the first order goals of sufficient liberties and adequate support to live meaningful, fulfilling lives At most, though, that makes democracy a second order goal, and there is little evidence that modern democracy is necessary to achieve the first order goal Still, Wu makes a good case that economic concentration, in any society, threatens the first order goal, which is the point of the book.Brandeis wasn t the one who resuscitated the moribund Sherman Act, though He just acts as Wu s philosophical lodestar It was Theodore Roosevelt who did that, seeing trusts as corrupting America and failing to curb them as leading to social unrest and even Communism The problem Roosevelt identified was that the private power trusts represented even though, as he pointed out, they were creatures of the State was easily transmuted into massive political power Roosevelt s intuitive observation was later given heft by Mancur Olson s mid century work in public choice theory, which compellingly demonstrated that motivated small groups with money could achieve disproportionately favorable governmental results through the magic of collective inaction This effect is exacerbated by concentration an industry with only a few players, even if they are bona fide competitors, can easily coordinate actions for the benefit of all of them to extract rents from the rest of society, where a less concentrated industry would be unable to herd enough cats to achieve the same goal The losers are the great majority of people, who have neither the money nor the individual incentive to organize in opposition so, in Roosevelt s and Wu s thinking, that s where the government comes in.In 1902, Roosevelt attacked J P Morgan s railroad trust, an action upheld in the Supreme Court s Northern Securities decision Then, starting in 1906, he broke up Rockefeller s Standard Oil, again supported by the Supreme Court, which began putting together the outlines of a legal standard, not found in the ultra broad language of the Sherman Act, that held that only unreasonable restraints of trade or monopoly were illegal What is unreasonable, therefore, became the interpretive key to antitrust law in the following hundred years Roosevelt himself later, when out of power, turned to corporatism, where it is held that giant companies are good, and competition bad, if the companies work hand in glove with the government hello, Mussolini , but in his earlier years worked tirelessly to ensure competition and smallness at the expense of bigness, and he is thus the prototype of what Wu thinks should be the proper executive approach to antitrust law.Wu uses the Standard Oil case to frame what he thinks is the core question in antitrust law is monopoly, orbroadly economic concentration, merely evidence of efficiency, spreading benefits for all Or is it a form of anti majoritarian and anti human flourishing power, where monopolistic producers use their economic, and other, power, to keep out new entrants and reduce innovation and consumer choice, while deforming the political process in myriad ways, even if sometimes they also reduce consumer prices Here Wu offers a range of often forgotten basic economics, including that diseconomies of scale are just as real as economies of scale, so bigger is not necessarily better, and that the agency problem the separation of ownership and control frequently means decisions are made to build empires for management rather than in the best interest of stockholders, much less consumers Size is closely correlated with crony capitalism and rent seeking at the expense of workers and the broader community just look at Jeffrey Immelt and General Electric under the Obama administration, for example not an example Wu gives But Standard Oil, in fact, in the form of its constituent parts, boomed after its breakup, suggesting that monopoly did not even offer the company economic benefits Wu also name checks my favorite economist, Luigi Zingales, for these same points Zingales is another person I think an essential player in the realignment of some conservatives and some liberals against their neoliberal Chamber of Commerce enemies and who also, together with his Capitalisn t podcast partner Kate Waldock, recently discussed the Brandeisian antitrust revival.Moving back to history, in the 1930s, as fascist style central planning reached its peak under Franklin Roosevelt, antitrust action suffered a near death experience, but rebounded soon enough, in part as a fresh reaction against economic concentration, which became seen as a key element of the Nazi and Soviet systems including the rise to power of the Nazis though the idea that the prime mover of Nazism or fascism was economic concentration is obviously silly now, it was compelling then Concentrated economic power was now seen as un American, and,importantly, as risking an American turn away from democracy Smaller businesses were seen as the iron bulwark of the American way of life, and so aggressive antitrust enforcement, including breakups of monopolies, continued through the 1950s and 1960s During this time, though, law professors from the University of Chicago, originally led by Aaron Director and then brought to full flower by Robert Bork, created, by Wu s account out of whole cloth, a new idea that the real purpose of Congress in passing the Sherman Act and subsequent antitrust laws was not addressing the societal harms of economic concentration, but rather only demonstrable consumer harm And that only in the form of increased prices, not any other, less direct, harm.Bork, at one point the high priest of originalism, the school of Constitutional interpretation holding that the original understanding of the Constitution by its ratifiers was the only acceptable lens through which to decide Constitutional questions which antitrust is not , based his argument on a very strained reading of legislative history or so Wu tells us He combined this with the powerful sales pitch that focusing on lower prices for consumers provided an objective, standard measuring stick that courts could use to decide antitrust questions, instead of vague and varied feelings about the social impact of economic concentration, which judges could use to simply impose their own politically desirable result It was the desire for judicial restraint not the same thing as originalism, though sometimes they go together that really sold what Bork was offering The net result, after Bork s reinterpretation swept through first the academy, then the courts, was to return antitrust to its pre Theodore Roosevelt days.As Wu points out, Bork ignored possible costs imposed on consumers other than mere higher price, such as stifling of innovation The classic example there was ATT, after the breakup of which telecommunications innovation flourished, but the point is obvious why innovate, if you are collecting monopoly profits Bork also ignored virtues of competition stressed by Hayek, like the virtues of decentralization and the avoidance of central planning ATT was the prototypical aggressive and open monopolist, gladly engaging in collusion, the jealous God of telecommunications, brooking no rivals, accepting no sharing, and swallowing any children with even the remotest chance of unseating Kronos The success of its breakup disproved Bork but, ironically, it was around the time of its breakup that Bork s view became dominant.Finally, Wu turns to what he calls the Tech Trusts, and I call the Lords of Tech He does not like them Like other authors, such as Franklin Foer and Niall Ferguson, he distrusts, andimportantly sees evil in, all of , Facebook, Google, and so on After a brief efflorescence of freedom in cyberspace, a false dawn in which fools not including me thought the rules of economics had changed forever, what always happens happened again a handful of giant companies concentrated in their hands all economic power in the relevant portions of the new Internet economy, using all the usual tools of coercion, economies of scale, and crony capitalism, along with a few new ones So, for example, Facebook bought all its competitors that might threaten it, such as Instagram, and the antitrust regulators swallowed the laughable claim that they were not competitors at all Listing this parade of horribles, as well as intimating that possible future combinations of such economic power with government could lead to even worse things a point he has expanded on in interviews talking about this book , Wu concludes, If there is a sectorripe for the reinvigoration of the big case breakup tradition, I do not know it What Wu wants most of all is a return to aggressive breakups of any concentration of economic power, with a near conclusive presumption that any long term monopoly, say existing for longer than ten years, be broken up by government action He only touches lightly on the definition of monopoly, which revolves around how one defines the relevant market, but that is a relatively easily overcome hurdle Wu points out that since the decline of antitrust to near total irrelevancy in the past twenty years, numerous critical industries have become very substantiallyconcentrated airlines, cable, pharmaceuticals, beer, and even telecommunications, with ATT reborn without government objection though in a substantially changed technological environment, where the old ATT monopolies are gone forever.So, wrapping it up, he offers a Neo Brandeisian Agenda First, aggressive prior review of mergers, which now is perfunctory and as I know from my own experience as an MA lawyer, mostly an excuse for the government to charge juicy transactions taxes masquerading as fees Second, transparency in mergers, which as an administrative process is mostly kept from public view by law Third, and fourth, and most important, resurrecting big cases, followed by a presumption in favor of breaking up companies This would involve bringing suit against them under existing laws Wu does not call for any major new laws , with the claims being not consumer harm through higher prices, but the mere existence of restraint of trade and monopoly, or of any behavior that does not protect competition, for which the punishment should be corporate death, or at least corporate amputation Wu notes that the idea that breakups can t be done is laughable again, something I know from personal experience, having helped put together many companies together in my time, it s very clear that the external appearance of an efficient, welded monolith is a fantasy for any big company, or any big organization, and breaking them up would cause almost no real trauma He also points out that court ordered breakups are self executing, rather than, as with consent decrees, requiring constant ongoing supervision for compliance Fifth, Wu recommends what he calls market investigations, already done in Europe, which scrutinize any existing market concentration and recommend whether it should be attacked, either for bad behavior or because it has ensorcelled itself from competitive attack Review completes as first comment Such an important and short book on the necessity of reviving old school trust busting Wu does an excellent job showing what went wrong basically, Chicago school econ and Bork He s absolutely right that the current test is meaningless and the modern tech and media behemoths are too large and monopolistic to be any good for the people and The People in the democratic sense. Persuasive And Brilliantly Written, The Book Is Especially Timely Given The Rise Of Trillion Dollar Tech Companies Publishers Weekly From The Man Who Coined The Term Net Neutrality, Author Of The Master Switch And The Attention Merchants, Comes A Warning About The Dangers Of Excessive Corporate And Industrial Concentration For Our Economic And Political FutureWe Live In An Age Of Extreme Corporate Concentration, In Which Global Industries Are Controlled By Just A Few Giant Firms Big Banks, Big Pharma, And Big Tech, Just To Name A Few But Concern Over What Louis Brandeis Called The Curse Of Bigness Can No Longer Remain The Province Of Specialist Lawyers And Economists, For It Has Spilled Over Into Policy And Politics, Even Threatening Democracy Itself History Suggests That Tolerance Of Inequality And Failing To Control Excessive Corporate Power May Prompt The Rise Of Populism, Nationalism, Extremist Politicians, And Fascist Regimes In Short, As Wu Warns, We Are In Grave Danger Of Repeating The Signature Errors Of The Twentieth CenturyIn The Curse Of Bigness, Columbia Professor Tim Wu Tells Of How Figures Like Brandeis And Theodore Roosevelt First Confronted The Democratic Threats Posed By The Great Trusts Of The Gilded Age But The Lessons Of The Progressive Era Were Forgotten In The Last Years He Calls For Recovering The Lost Tenets Of The Trustbusting Age As Part Of A Broader Revival Of American Progressive Ideas As We Confront The Fallout Of Persistent And Extreme Economic Inequality Monopoly is a monster with many faces You can think of it as a structural pillar of the kind of politics we rejected in the forties and the late eighties, you can look at it from the angle of the businessman or the consumer or you can take the legal angle.In this 120 page monograph, which is decidedly not cursed by bigness, author Tim Wu gives a thorough and entertaining history of the legal aspects of anti trust from 1890 to today You get flattering, but not fawning, profiles of the main prot Monopoly is a monster with many faces You can think of it as a structural pillar of the kind of politics we rejected in the forties and the late eighties, you can look at it from the angle of the businessman or the consumer or you can take the legal angle.In this 120 page monograph, which is decidedly not cursed by bigness, author Tim Wu gives a thorough and entertaining history of the legal aspects of anti trust from 1890 to today You get flattering, but not fawning, profiles of the main protagonists, like Teddy Roosevelt and Louis Brandeis and a slightly less reverential look at Robert Bork, whom like the author I first heard of as part of the block Bork movement when I was an undergrad.In short, the very broadly written 1890 Sherman Act was originally left alone, but the assassination of McKinley set in motion the forces for it to be interpreted Tim Wu choses the word activated by Trustbuster Teddy Roosevelt as a warrant to battle men who had becomepowerful than the government they were meant to answer to, starting with an anti JP Morgan campaign in the Northern Trust case and moving on to JD Rockefeller s Standard Oil The point is made that the law was interpreted and reformulated via the Clayton Act of 1914 to view not only monopoly but also scale as the enemy or so the author argues, at any rate A further point that is made p 77 that the FTC was established to investigate and bring suit against any unfair methods of competition And the historical context is given that the American way, competition, was very distinct from the methods of totalitarians of both the right and the left, what with both Germany and Russia in essence seizing the means of production with the intent of reaping the returns to scale and putting them at the disposal of the people The scene is set from there to move to the newer, consumer welfare standard introduced and pushed through by Robert Bork, initially in response to what at the time was considered over reach on the part of what had in the meantime become the anti trust establishment, but also due to a quirk that only had a chance of being relevant in times of relative prosperity the fact that judges find it much easier to apply a simple criterion than make pronouncements on the bigger issues of right and wrong To wit despite the robes and bench, judges are still lawyers, and can become anxious when asked to decide complex and challenging cases Bork offered a calming remedy with an appealing simplicity and apparent rigor p 91 This line is probably the biggest contribution of this mischievous little book From there Tim Wu moves on to 1 discredit the notion that anybody let alone a judge can seriously believe he can measure consumer welfare any better than he can make pronouncements on what s fair2 deplore the disastrous results of Bork s victory and lay out the example of the damage inflicted today on competition and consumer welfare by the big tech trusts3 argue very persuasively that a number of cases such as ATT, IBM and Microsoft were triumphs from a consumer welfare perspective, regardless of whether they were won or lost4 set a neo Brandeisean agenda for the futureIt s a narrow book and I, in particular, feel the legal legislative angle is the hardest and most radical of our choices when it comes to one day defeating the spiritual successors to JP Morgan and JD Rockefeller We could get them to pay tax where they sell, we could change a tax regime that strongly favors leveraged financing only the big can borrow in scale , and we could make it illegal for asset managers to ownthan one player in any industry That would stop the formation of new trusts in its tracks, leaving us to deal with breaking up the already existing ones at our leisure.But The Curse of Bigness does not pretend to be a broad book, it s a monograph on the legal aspects of our fight against monopoly and bigness A tremendous one The second book in a week I have read about the necessity of Anti trust and the danger of large Monopolies and oligopolies on our democracy Again wisdom gained in the early twentieth century forgotten and a return to a new gilded age and probably worse if things keep going this way Antitrust is an important tool to break up concentrations of wealth and power Monopolies are deadly to liberal democracy As are other things. I remember going to the House Judiciary Committee created Antitrust Modernization Commission s sole public interest hearing in DC There was hardly anyone who wasn t a lobbyist or industry friendly regulator in the room The panel and the presentations were all made by corporate lawyers When the floor was opened up for public comment, I asked why there were no public interest representatives from, for example, consumer groups after all, modern antitrust doctrine has narrowed the question do I remember going to the House Judiciary Committee created Antitrust Modernization Commission s sole public interest hearing in DC There was hardly anyone who wasn t a lobbyist or industry friendly regulator in the room The panel and the presentations were all made by corporate lawyers When the floor was opened up for public comment, I asked why there were no public interest representatives from, for example, consumer groups after all, modern antitrust doctrine has narrowed the question down to price theory and consumer harm , or labor unions or family farmers or small businessesMy question was received with an incomprehensible blank stare, then a response delivered by the chair w o reference to who had raised the question Which was something like this As for the question of balance, this panel is clearly balanced We have representatives chosen by both Democratic and Republican members of the committee In other words, both Democrats and Republicans had an opportunity to pick K Street lawyers represented here If you think the differences are significant, you should look at how much the big banks and companies like Google, Facebook, Apple give to both Democrats and Republicans Along with Pharma, Big Ag., the Weapons Cartel, Chemical Seed Mfrs, etc The AMC s final report can be found here, btw There s clearly a need for popular understanding of the importance of real fundamental reform in how antitrust laws are interpreted and enforced People know this thousands of farmers turned out for field hearings held by the DoJ s antitrust division held at the start of the Obama administration s first term, but nothing substantial came of it They know that the economy has become concentrated in few hands, driving both inequality and a dangerous concentration of political power in the hands of plutocrats And that reality has been confirmed repeatedly by various studies See, for example, the references to economist Gustavo Grillon, who found that 75 percent of industries witnessed increasing concentration between 1997 and 2012, as well as the Council of Economic Advisers report to the president Benefits of Competition and Indicators of Market Power The problem extends far beyond Wal Mart,and Too Big to Fail banks Another stark example is beer Just one company sold 70% of all non craft beer in the U.S in 2017 Remember when Anheuser Busch renamed Budweiser America after they were bought by the Belgian In Bev As Wu points out, the consequences of market concentration are not merely economic power and control, they are also political and threaten Democracy itself A famous study of nearly 1,800 policy decisions by Gilens and Page found that none went in favor of public interest groups, leading them to conclude that by formal standards of political science the U.S has become an oligopoly An example that sticks out to me is the fact that between them Facebook and Google took in 75% of all online ad revenues outside of China in 2017 FB and Google are platforms they don t generate original content or employ investigative journalists The implications for democracy are evident in the spread of fake news Wu s book is the best introduction to Antitrust law and history that I know I ve been waiting for a book that could explain in accessible terms for non lawyers like me why antitrust law matters and how we went from having a trust busting President to seeing the law get Borked by the U of Chicago and itsmoderate followers at Harvard whose doctrines reduced the Sherman and Clayton Acts interpretation down to narrow questions of price theory and consumer harm btw If you re interested in tracking these issuesclosely, I recommend Two groups the American Antitrust Institute and the Open Markets Institute Ralph Nader also had a great conference on the myths of market fundamentalism a few months ago the recording is posted at CSRL.org The growth of activity by these and other groups is a good sign There are helpful references throughout for those who want to dig deeper But start with The Curse of Bigness if you re looking for something akin to Antitrust for Dummies Wu puts it plainly and clearly we must control economic structures before they irreversibly control us A short book about the seemingly dry subject of antitrust that revealed itself instead to be urgently important and incredibly readable to me as a layman in the area Wu s brief history of antitrust s origins and strong enforcement in the early to mid 20th century is informative and compelling, but evenso I enjoyed his detailed recommendations for how and why we should now return to that tradition in the early 21st century.In light of the increasing economic anxieties that currently domina A short book about the seemingly dry subject of antitrust that revealed itself instead to be urgently important and incredibly readable to me as a layman in the area Wu s brief history of antitrust s origins and strong enforcement in the early to mid 20th century is informative and compelling, but evenso I enjoyed his detailed recommendations for how and why we should now return to that tradition in the early 21st century.In light of the increasing economic anxieties that currently dominate political socioeconomic discussions, Wu argues for an alternative to two other popular ideas for solving capitalism s current ills Where the far right seems to believe purely unregulated free market capitalism will be the cure and the far left has re popularized rejecting capitalism entirely for socialism, Wu argues for re acknowledging antitrust s original goals and again returning its early regulatory strength and will to be enforced.Wu s argument could be lazily framed as the obvious moderate compromise between the two otherradical viewpoints mentioned above, but I don t think his position gains any inherent worth simply from fitting in the middle of a US centric ideological mapping Nonetheless, I found many of his points persuasive and I enjoyed the passionate and well supported argument he formed from them, particularly since so many centrist op ed arguments right now are unconvincing and lifeless promotions of an unsustainable status quo Tim Wu s The Attention Merchants is one my most favorite books read to date on the media industry and as a result I have vowed to keep abreast of everything he writes The Curse of Bigness is his most recent and, like his other books, is extremely well written, full of persuasive arguments and historical context, and also a pleasure to read But something is amiss The book s premise is to make sense of the growing income inequality in the US and points to the trend towardsindustrial conce Tim Wu s The Attention Merchants is one my most favorite books read to date on the media industry and as a result I have vowed to keep abreast of everything he writes The Curse of Bigness is his most recent and, like his other books, is extremely well written, full of persuasive arguments and historical context, and also a pleasure to read But something is amiss The book s premise is to make sense of the growing income inequality in the US and points to the trend towardsindustrial concentration over the past 20 years as one of the leading causes Interesting thesis, but unfortunately the book lacks any proof This is a major omission and a curious one, mostly because he does such a good job referring to many of the great legal and economics minds to lay the foundation for his arguments As a result, while The Attention Merchants oozes with substance and can lay claim to being a definitive history of advertising in the US, I fear that this book will be judged asof a lightweight effort The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age


About the Author: Tim Wu

Tim Wu is an author, a professor at Columbia Law School, and a contributing writer for the New York Times. He has written about technology in numerous publications, and coined the phrase net neutrality.


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