To set the table for this specific and all of our sources and reports, thinking readers must be able to sift through the chaff and save the wheat. The Open Markets Institute is certainly one of the more aggressive researchers and advocates into the important topic of the monopolization of economic and political power. There is much to learn from Matt Stoller and #OpenMarkets, but some items that arguably should be sifted out and tossed aside too – all based on evidence and reason – not mere whim, taste, or emotion.
MHProNews spends more time focused on the facts that the Open Markets Institute compiles than we do some of their political bias.
That said, it is without question that Democrats are as a rule discussing the issue of the monopolization of America more than many in the GOP were previously doing.
But there are Republican exceptions, such as Senator Ted Cruz (TX-R) and Josh Harley (MO-R), among others.
President Trump and parts of his administration are pushing certain antitrust topics too.
With that tee up, first this video interview with Stoller from left-of-center MSNBC.
Next, these pull-quotes from the Open Markets website recent announcement.
Matt Stoller’s Shocking New Book
“Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy”
Washington, DC — Today, Open Markets Institute Fellow Matt Stoller released his new book Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.
Goliath, published by Simon & Schuster, is “a startling look at how concentrated financial power and consumerism transformed American politics, resulting in the emergence of populism and authoritarianism…while also providing the steps needed to create a new democracy.”
“Goliath is a meticulously researched, powerfully argued and beautifully written book. Every thinking American must read it.”
—The Washington Book Review
“Goliath delivers…We learn how to see and analyze economic power—how it’s created, circulates, and corrupts—and how to oppose, disentrench, and prevent it from returning.”
—The American Prospect
“Goliath shows that a history of antitrust in the United States is ultimately a story about who we are as Americans, the limits we can place on private power, and government’s ability to be a force for fairness and justice. The breadth and depth contained in this book is unlike any book written on the topic in recent memory…”
—Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and co-chairman of the Economic Security Project
Goliath has already caused controversy in the increasingly important debate over corporate power.
- Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times and Obama White House veteran Dan Pfeiffer debated the book and the relationship between Democrats and corporate power in the New York Times and on Twitter.
- Ed Luce at the Financial Times and Matt Stoller debated the fraught nature of the U.S. relationship with China.
- Stanford History Professor Jennifer Burns and author of the upcoming book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, argued about the origin of the libertarian
Let’s note that we’ve not read the book Goliath, so we are not necessarily endorsing it. That said, as previously noted, Open Markets is doing important work on a critical topic. That disclaimer noted, let’s press on with the analysis of some of Stoller’s comments.
“We are in a moment where capitalism is being seriously questioned, and Goliath explains why,” said Matt Stoller. “There are corrupted and concentrated markets everywhere, not just search engines and social networks but dialysis, syringes, baby food, missiles and munitions. This isn’t just a threat to our quality of life, but to our democracy itself. We [as a nation] have been here before, and we defeated the monopolists. But to do that, we must understand our own history.” Bingo. As a style note, MHProNews, as attentive regular readers know, often takes direct quotes and turns the bold and brown to make the text pop. In this instance above, we’ve also added the highlighting, to emphasize salient points Stoller made that in our expert view reflects vital points that Americans in general, and manufactured housing industry independents, professionals, investors specifically, large needs to better grasp.
Antitrust isn’t a new issue, it’s centuries old. In days gone by, to emphasize Stoller’s theme, it was lampooned by cartoonists. The image below is but one example.
Politics aside, and setting aside the use of the term ‘democracy’ for a moment, the thrust of Stoller’s narrative above is backed up by evidence and other analysis, such as New York Times-David Leonhardt-“The Monopolization of America,” which MHProNews previously reported on at the link shown.
Not a Partisan Issue
Like affordable housing, trust busting is ideally not a partisan issue.
What makes Goliath’s topic fascinating, from a nonpartisan or bipartisan vantagepoint, is this. Stoller cites the need to grasp the nation’s history on the topic of monopolization. He is quite correct on that point. Indeed, one could go back beyond the 100 years he opted to focus on.
As MHProNews reported earlier this week in the retailers letter to the Federal Trade Commission on antitrust and related concerns, the Department of Justice (DoJ) top antitrust official, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, cited the following in a recent international address on antitrust concerns.
“On December 20, 1787, Jefferson wrote to his friend James Madison with his views about the draft Constitution… “I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal & unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land & not by the law of Nations.” – said Delrahim, per the DOJ’s website on his prepared remarks.
The point again is that across the spectrum, there are voices that are raising the alarms. Stoller’s spot on in saying that it is a historic and vital issue.
Two Sides of the Story? Before Goliath Was Released…
Weeks before Goliath was being promoted or released, our publisher L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach raised concerns about monopolization and how that and crony capitalism is fueling interest by numbers in socialism with Charles Payne from right-of-center Fox Business. Payne said the points raised by Tony Kovach on air made a lot of sense, and Payne added that big companies were using their “moats” to their own advantage.
What Tony Kovach argued in part must be avoided is an overly simplistic Democratic or Republican position, and what must occur instead is a focus on the facts, the history of antitrust in America, and how ‘trust busters’ battled these same issues decades ago. Indeed, as MHProNews has previously reported, this issue predates the founding of the first 13 states. The famous Boston ‘tea party’ during the run up to the revolution by the American colonies against England was not only a protest against the British tea tax, but against the monopoly that sold the tea.
There are useful positions and insights from both Democratic and Republican party members. Thus, what ought to occur is action based upon clarity of understanding, not some promise of possible action by officials hoping to win election or re-election after the 2020 election.
While antitrust hearings and investigations are occurring around the issue of big tech, where is a similar level of interest in antitrust in other parts of the economy, such as manufactured housing? Affordable housing is one of the top issues in the country. Thus, manufactured homes role in it, and the concerns over purported antitrust raised in reports like the one below must be addressed by public officials.
It isn’t that the antitrust issue hasn’t been raised, it has. Not only here on MHProNews, or MHLivingNews, but by lawmakers on Capitol Hill or during the recent Democratic debate.
That said, objectively, there isn’t the same degree of attention being focused on antitrust and affordable housing as in the case of the tech giants, often referred to as the FAANG brands. But the FAANGs are hardly alone, Microsoft merits no less scrutiny. By logical analogy, so too does Berkshire Hathaway.
Sources tell MHProNews that Warren Buffett led Berkshire has in fact been gearing up legally for just such a battle.
What all of that should tell investors, industry professionals, nonprofits, elected and appointed public officials, advocates, and others is this. If there is smoke around these issues, and years of research, then what is keeping public officials from stepping up to the plate and acting?
Closing Thoughts on MSNBC Video
There is no doubt that automation and robotics are changing the face of the market, nor is there any doubt that monopolization is too. A look at one of thousands of Walmart store, which merits their own antitrust probe, reveals how many jobs are being eliminated by self-check out. Sam’s Clubs have that plus are going beyond it by using an ap on a smart phone.
The elimination of jobs in America, be it outsourced to China, or lost to such emerging technologies, are all negative impacts on American labor. That in turn depresses wages. That may seem like a good short term for a medium or larger business, but frankly long term it is a bad idea. Why? Because machines or aps don’t buy products or services. You don’t sell an affordable manufactured home, or any housing, to a self-checkout machine or to a robot in an Amazon or other warehouse.
While MHProNews would take exception with several of Andrew Yang’s positions, such as universal guaranteed or basic income – which has been tested and failed – what he’s said about AI, automation and robotics is perhaps his most valuable contribution to the discussion. The right-of-center Fox News interview with Yang on that topic is below. It’s insightful, and makes several of the evidence-based points that MHProNews has raised for years.
Matt Stoller, Monopolization, and Its Economic Impacts
As a New York Times column on antitrust previously reported by MHProNews observed, several industries are being steadily consolidated. The facts tell us that it is time for federal and state officials to step up and take action to protect the interests of small businesses and the workers they represent.
It should be noted that several of these voices on the left-or-right, perhaps well intentioned, argue for ‘more regulation,’ ‘higher taxes,’ ‘term limits,’ ‘campaign finance reform,’ or reversing the decision made in Citizen’s United.
More regulation or higher taxes are often a defense for consolidators, as has been revealed in the report linked below.
Term limits might be useful for some things, but it won’t change the power of huge business and uber billionaires to buy whatever lobbying or candidates to support all that they want or desire.
The wheat from Matt Stoller is that concentration of power economically through a monopolistic consolidation of industries means disproportionate power politically and legally too.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders want to establish a wealth tax. It may sound appealing, but it won’t work in practice. First, it is unlikely to stand up to constitutional scrutiny. Second, it has been tried and failed in Europe. Third, if it did somehow pass, big business can bundle new taxes and pass them on as a cost of doing business to the middle and lower classes. It is part of what 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and former Representative John Delaney referred to as “fairy tale economics.”
That noted, there is something that might work more effectively and is constitutional. See that in the report linked below.
What can work is this, and Senator Warren has advocated for it many times. Use the federal power to break up the trusts. There is due process. The trusts – the consolidators – would be investigated, they would have an ability to mount a defense. The federal and/or state governments would have subpoena powers. If there are only civil violations, appropriate action should be taken. If criminal violations have occurred – and we believe there is evidence of that in manufactured housing – the criminal prosecutions should take place.
Absent serious antitrust action, the main question is ‘when’ American smaller business, more modest investors – and that could include millionaire investors – and the mass of the citizenry essentially loses their rights.
Enforcing good laws are at the heart of what America needs. Ironically there are voices on the left and right that both make that point. The time to act is sooner than later.
Last point for today before wrapping this up. Using the proper definitions of words, America is a Republic that has Democratic features to it. In the pledge of allegiance, what does it say about the U.S. flag? “And to the Republic for which it stands…” Words and definitions matters, as industry professionals know. We’ll plan to examine the differences between a pure democracy, which the U.S. is not and never has been, and a republic another time.
That’s your Saturday edition of MHProNews – your #1 source for professionals’ “News Through the Lens of Manufactured Homes and Factory-Built Housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
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