Jan. 20, 2010
My colleague Barry Lynn just released his excellent new book, entitled Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. It is an especially timely release because it elevates a set of issues that deserve to take center stage in current debates about the economy and the collective future of our political economy. As a follow up to his 2005 book End of the Line which described the increasingly risky supply chain of the new global corporation, Barry now takes his readers on a contemporary tour of our economy to reveal the widespread consolidation of corporate control in almost every conceivable sector. Eyeglasses, shampoo, pharmaceuticals, banks, toothpaste, candy, music distribution, electronics, book sales, commodities, seeds, and even whisky and beer are all dominated by a few large providers that are able to exert a degree of authoritarian control that is debilitating to many would-be small providers and workers alike.
The book is pretty hard to read without becoming indignant. Yet, it is essential to recognize that the rise of monopoly capitalism stands in contrast to early periods of American history when enforcement of our anti-trust laws was seen as essential to the stability, survival, and prosperity of the country as a whole. And despite the recent rise and promotion of a free market ideology, Lynn’s narrative helps clarify that markets are in fact not natural phenomenon. Rather, they are made. Politics and power must be considered to understand how competition has virtually disappeared in large swaths of the economy. This is especially disturbing for those of us who think that there is particular merit in the promise of the entrepreneur looking to innovate and compete on a level playing field. Still, we have within our collective power to remake these markets and rewrite the rules of engagement.
Consequently, we are using the release of Barry’s book to launch the Markets, Enterprise and Resiliency Initiative at the New America Foundation. Among other things, this body of work will aim to promote the idea that resilience in the real world requires citizens are able to exert control over their lives. Assets (in their many diverse forms) play a formative role in this process. One area will plan to explore is the role of small business ownership, which has long been a prime source of new jobs and new ideas in America. This sector has suffered in recent years and we will aim to organize research and convene the discussions necessary to understand what happened to America’s entrepreneurial economy and why.
For those in the DC area, we are going to be featuring Barry (and his book) at a cocktail hour event next week at our office or you can catch him at Politics and Prose on January 30th. I hope you get your hands on a copy of his book soon.