Monopoly power and political corruption
Starve the (corporate) beast, shrink it until it fits in a bathtub!
As antitrust awakens from its 40-year, Reagan-induced coma, there’s both surging hope that we will tame corporate power, and a backlash that says that antitrust is the wrong framework for reducing the might of giant corporations.
Competition itself won’t solve problems like digital surveillance, pollution or labor exploitation. If we fetishize competition for its own sake, we could end up with a competition to see who can violate our human rights most efficiently.
Even if we do care about competition, a lack of antitrust enforcement isn’t the sole cause of concentration: patent abuse, DRM lock-in, criminalizing terms of service violation and other anticompetitive tactics suppress rival market entrants, but don’t violate antitrust.
But I’m here to say that a lack of antitrust enforcement is the way to understand the source of harms like environmental degradation and labor exploitation, and anticompetitive tactics like copyright abuse.
To explain why, I’ve published a new editorial for EFF’s Deeplinks, called “Starve the Beast: Monopoly Power and Political Corruption.”
Here’s my core thesis: monopolized industries have high profits, which they can spend to legalize abusive conduct.
Monopolized industries also have a small number of dominant companies, which makes it easier to agree on a lobbying agenda.
In other words, when an industry is reduced to just a handful of companies, they have more ammo and it’s a lot easier for them to agree on their targets — deregulation, expansions of proprietary rights, and regulatory capture.
Which is why monopoly begets monopoly! Remember the Napster era, when tech had almost no lobbying muscle and got its ass routinely handed to it by the much smaller entertainment cartel, who were represented by a handful of wildly profitable companies with lobbying…