Research Areas

Inequality and Monopoly

Scholars have devoted volumes of research to the growing power of the “one percent,” but they have largely ignored one of the main sources of the problem: the great concentration of power that has taken place in the U.S. economy since the 1980s. The Open Markets program has been in the vanguard in detailing how the overthrow of America’s traditional antimonopoly laws cleared the way for much of the extreme concentration of wealth and power we see in the United States today.

Data and Discrimination

Online intermediaries like Amazon have emerged as the railroad monopolies of the 21st century, controlling access to market, and hence, increasingly determining who wins and who loses in today’s economy. The Open Markets program has pioneered coverage of these new online networks, and of ways to use traditional laws to neutralize their monopoly powers. Much of our work has concentrated on Amazon’s control over the U.S. market for books. Our work in this area has been widely covered, including in a lead business story in the New York Times.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Small business has long been a prime source of new jobs and ideas in America. At the same time, American citizens have long regarded the opportunity to own small business as one of our most important liberties. Yet over the last generation, many basic business activities in America—in services, retailing, light manufacturing, farming, and elsewhere—have been all but closed off to the entrepreneur. The Open Markets program examines the effects of such consolidation on innovation, communities, the environment, and the political and economic well-being of individual families and citizens.

Food and Farming

For the first two centuries of our nation, small and family owned enterprises dominated America’s farming and food systems. This ownership structure ensured a wide distribution of profit and opportunity across America’s landscape, and ensured that most land and most animals were cared for by individuals not corporations. But over the last 30 years, a few giant corporations have consolidated control over almost every aspect of America’s food and farming businesses. The Open Markets program researches and writes about the effects of extreme concentration on farmers, workers, eaters, and animals, and publishes the Food & Power website and newsletter. 

Resilient Systems

In recent years we have repeatedly witnessed a terrifying new phenomenon—the crash of entire industrial and banking systems due to the loss of access to a single city or region, even a single factory or bank. These crashes are the result of many factors, all of which derive from changes in competition policy over the last generation. The Open Markets program designs and oversees research into the causes and potential solutions to these crises; works with leading executives, scientists, engineers, bankers, policymakers, and scholars to identify the source of the problem; and produces original, closely reported journalism to broaden and deepen the public’s understanding of the dangers and what we can do to lessen them.

Trade and National Security

From the Founding into the 1990s, Americans viewed smart trade strategy designed to ensure industrial independence as a key to the nation’s security. But beginning about 20 years ago, U.S. governments adopted a strategy of industrial “interdependence,” based on the idea that when nations rely on the same industrial capacities, they will strive harder to avoid conflict. The Open Markets program has long been a pioneer in researching and describing the political and economic complexities posed by such tight interweaving of industrial structures. We have worked in depth on these issues with policymakers, and national security and economic experts, in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, and elsewhere.

Markets as Political Institutions

Markets are one of our most basic political institutions. Citizens erect markets to guarantee the open exchange of ideas and goods, to ensure a steady and robust supply of vital products at reasonable prices, and to regulate competition among individuals in ways that protect the interests of every member of society. Over the last generation, however, many of our most important open markets in America were enclosed by private corporations. Increasingly, these corporations enjoy the ability to direct, from the top down, how we exchange goods, services, and ideas with one another. The Open Markets program aims to identify ways to keep our markets for goods and services open, fair, and stable.