America's Monopoly Problem - Further Reading

Photo: Shutterstock

This is a collection of articles, op-eds, studies, and essays regarding many of the issues discussed during our 6/29/2016 event - America's Monopoly Problem - with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and co-hosted with The Capitol Forum. 

Panel 1: Does America Have a Monopoly Problem? What the Numbers Show

Market Power and Inequality: The Antitrust Counterrevolution and its Discontents
Lina Khan & Sandeep Vaheesan, Harvard Law and Policy Review (Forthcoming)

The U.S. has witnessed, over the last forty years, a large-scale walk-back of antimonopoly policy, which has made for nearly unprecedented levels of monopolization and market concentration in all corners of the economy. Crucially, this rising market concentration has contributed to the extreme economic disparities that afflict the U.S. today. 

Restoring Competition in the U.S. Economy
Lina Khan & K. Sabeel Rahman, Roosevelt Institute (June 2016)

In this chapter, part of a larger report entitled Untamed, Khan and Rahman report on how rising monopolization has greatly contributed to economic inequality and presents numerous other dangers - including higher costs, lower wages, weakened innovation, and, especially, more concentrated power. In the chapter, they report on the history of antimonopoly policy in the U.S. and document several steps that the state can undertake to curb monopoly and improve the economy. 

Are U.S. Industries Becoming More Concentrated?
Grullon et al., (June 2016)

More than three fourths of US industries have seen increased market concentration in the last two decades, and there are signs in the market which suggest that market power, itself, is becoming an important series of value. The changes have been driven by the consolidation of publicly traded firms into larger entities, and altogether, this structural shift has significantly weakened competition.

The Real Reason Middle America Should Be Angry
Brian S. Feldman, Washington Monthly (March 2016)

St. Louis, like many of the “flyover” cities and communities that dot America, has lost jobs, businesses, population, and economic stability over recent decades, a trend closely tied to rising monopolization. As companies buy out their competitors and centralize their operations in big city centers like New York and San Francisco, that means the dissolution of many smaller, local businesses, and the relocation of businesses that were once staples of the civic fabric of cities like St. Louis.

Bloom and Bust
Phillip Longman, Washington Monthly (November 2015)

For much of American history, Americans sought - and managed - to equalize incomes across the country, so that the residents of Minneapolis and Memphis could be as prosperous as those of New York and Washington, D.C. But in the last few decades, the incomes of many American regions have diverged, making for a less widely-shared prosperity, a development which is closely tied to increasing market concentration and higher levels of monopolization in all sectors of the American economy.

Killing the Competition
Barry Lynn, Harper’s (February 2012)

America has seen an almost unprecedented growth in market concentration and monopolization, across industry after industry. This has weakened the economy, handicapped entrepreneurialism, and made for an un-competitive economy, dominated by the wealthy and powerful few.

Reviving Antitrust
Jarsulic et al., Center for American Progress (June 2016)

There is clear, systematic evidence that American corporations are extracting high rents from the economy, which is closely linked to a rise in market concentration and monopoly throughout the economy. Fortunately, there are numerous antimonopoly tools that can be wielded to address high market concentration, and the executive branch has many opportunities to step up antitrust enforcement.

Panel 2: Other People's News and Ideas: Monopoly and the Flow of Information

The Mission of Media in an Age of Monopoly
Justin Schlosberg, ResPublica (May 2016)

Schlosberg examines how more democratic, citizen-serving media markets can be created in the UK and across Europe, given heavy concentration in the industry and the rise of online intermediaries (search and social media) and participatory news platforms. Schlosberg Ultimately, states should levy a tax on online search and social networking services to support local and longform journalism, as well as new legislation to create a new test for when the state should intervene to ease concentration.

Facebook is Eating the World
Emily Bell, Columbia Journalism Review (March 2016)

Journalistic outlets have lost control over distribution - as social media sites and other online channels are the go-between by which readers find news - and they are increasing losing control over advertising and, with it, revenue streams. Meanwhile, social media sites have gained power, as they can control so much of distribution.

Social media is on the rise, but not like you’d expect
Smithka Khorana & Nausicaa Renner, Columbia Journalism Review
 (June 2016)

Social media has become a hugely influential means of distribution of news. But, as users rely more and more heavily on social media, they will develop looser nad looser connection to news brands and individual journalists, which greatly concerns publishers.

Who owns the news consumer: Social media platforms or publishers?
Emily Bell, Columbia Journalism Review 
(June 2016)

The distinctions between “publisher” and “platform” have begun to collapse, so that platforms are becoming publishers – in the sense that they filter content, encourage some types of content, and other ways – while publishers are becoming more and more reliant upon platforms. Larger news organizations, with international reach and well-known brands, have benefitted more from this than have smaller, locally-focused publications. On the whole, the news ecosystem is increasingly being shaped by much more than reader behavior, as platforms influence the space more and more. 

Panel 3: Other People's Data: Monopoly and Discrimination

Machine Bias
Julia Angwin et al., ProPublica (May 2016)

The American Criminal Justice system is increasingly using algorithms to analyze offenders and produce “risk scores,” designed to predict the likelihood that people will re-offend. However, these systems are very often biased against people of color, illustrating the risks of relying on such supposedly neutral systems.

Information Fiduciaries and the First Amendment
Jack Balkin
, (April 2016)

In an effort to regulate new forms of social and economic power without crushing free speech rights, Balkin proposes the idea of ‘Information Fiduciaries’ – online service providers and cloud companies who are made to recognize a certain set of responsibilities to help protect the well-being of their users.

Got a Hot Seller on Amazon? Prepare for E-Tailer to Make One Too
Spencer Soper, Bloomberg News (April 2016)

Amazon often uses insights gleamed from the activity of its third party sellers to track consumer behavior and undercut their competitors. For instance, if a third-party seller offers a popular, well-rated product on Amazon’s platform, Amazon will often create its own version of the product and offer it for a much lower price. In other words, once a third-party seller has proven that a market for a particular product exists, Amazon will enter that market and offer a very low-priced version of that particular product, potentially driving the original seller out of business, even though they developed the product and proved the market for it.

Amazon: As EU Continues Scrutiny of US Tech Giants, Amazon is Increasingly Vulnerable in US to Antitrust Enforcement for Exclusionary Conduct in Books 
The Capitol Forum
 (June 2016)

Amazon presents a potential, wide-ranging antitrust risk, because it is active in so many markets, but the most likely area for antitrust action is in Amazon’s book activities, where it has a very strong, potentially anti-competitive position.

Open Markets-Authors United Letter to Assistant Attorney General William Baer Regarding Amazon
Barry Lynn & Douglas Preston (July 2015)

In this letter, Barry Lynn, of New America’s Open Markets Program, and Douglas Preston, the founder of Authors United, argue that Amazon has become a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books. In so doing, Amazon has become a threat to an independent, competitive, and high quality book market, and it represents a threat to free speech and citizens’ free access to information. 

Federal Search Commission? Access, Fairness, and Accountability in the Law of Search
Oren Bracha and Frank Pasquale, Cornell Law Review (September 2008)

Given that the search engine market tis highly concentrated and dominated by oligopolists, and that individual consumer behavior and market developments will not stop all abusive practices, should search engines be subject to regulation like that applied to personal data collectors, cable networks and the like? Further, the authors argue, such regulation would be permitted under the First Amendment.

Panel 4: Open and Democratic?  Antimonopoly in the 21st Century

Degrees of Freedom, Dimensions of Power
Yochai Benkler, Daedalus (Winter 2016)

Market developments have introduced new bottlenecks and points of control into the internet ecosystem, reversing the situation from the earliest days of the internet, in which the internet was very widely distributed, democratic, and open. To preserve the promise and benefits of a democratic internet, we must diagnose control points and bottlenecks, to ensure diversity, creative, and democracy on the web, and to prevent further concentration of power via the internet.

Populism with a Brain
Phillip Longman and Barry C. Lynn, Washington Monthly (June 2016)

Despite frequent invocations of “populism,” most Americans have largely lost their connection to the Populism of the late 19th Century, a progressive tradition that focused on efforts to decrease concentration of wealth and power in the economy and society. Those efforts included antimonopoly policy, good government reforms, systems to promote localized economies, and intellectual property regimes that aimed to promote and distribute innovation.

Facebook’s Subtle Empire
Ross Douthat, the New York Times (May 2016)

Facebook “needs vigilant watchdogs and rigorous critiques,” and that much of Facebook’s exercise of it power will be subtle, because many people who live inside Facebook’s infrastructure will likely not even notice if their feed is shifted or filtered in a certain people. The platform’s power should be “constantly checked, critiqued and watched.”

Tech Giants and Civic Power
Martin Moore, King’s College London (April 2016)

Tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, and others present questions related to their roles in democratic civic life. In fact, many of these giants have taken up civic roles - such as the ability to encourage collective action and filter and spread news. Moore lays out the scale and reach of these giants and the civic roles they are. Moore closes by concluding that discussion of these tech goliaths must be framed in terms of their civic roles and how the affect democracy.