Thursday, August 31, 2017

If you indefinitely allow economic and political power to grow more concentrated and unchecked, it will be abused (even by those who promise not to be evil)

My surprise at the following story is somewhat blunted by my low opinion of the New America Foundation.  It always struck me as the sort of place that grinds out tired variants of failed conventional wisdom, then congratulates itself for boldness and originality, the sort of place that public intellectuals like to lend their names to and that large corporations are happy to sponsor.

That corporate-friendly approach leads to inevitable tensions, particularly in an age where big money increasingly expects a great deal of obedience from the not-so-powerful and when you have a researcher at the foundation actually focusing on the dangers of monopolies, those tensions can reach the breaking point.

From Josh Marshall:
Because this is a big interest of mine, yesterday I interviewed Barry Lynn for my podcast. Lynn is probably the most prominent and influential voice about the importance of monopolies today. He has or at least had his work cut out for him because a number of factors over recent decades had made the idea monopolies and the importance of anti-trust action seem to many like a quaint artifact of a bygone era when reformers lacked a full understanding of how monopolies work in practice. Lynn’s work and that of his working group at The New America Foundation, have led in recent years to renewed attention to the issue from professional economists, the people who have the technical knowledge and (for better or worse) policy world credibility to bring these concerns from concept to proof. ‘Proof’ is probably too strong a word but I mean the kinds of studies that make the theories real or credible in policy and political terms.

In any case, you may have noticed that there’s a big story out today in The New York Times about how Google – one of the three preeminent platform monopolies – apparently used its juice as a major funder of The New America Foundation to get Lynn’s Open Markets initiative booted. As it happens, from my understanding, while this could have been the end of Lynn’s Open Markets Initiative, it’s actually been able to get separate funding and will be even bigger on the outside. But it does show, in a particularly brazen and comical manner, the power of the platform monopolies both in economic terms and political terms.

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