The Daily Beast: It’s High Time We Got a ‘F**k Off’ Economy: Zephyr Teachout
In the 1980s, under the Reagan administration’s lax enforcement of antitrust laws, corporate mergers in the U.S. began to jump. Since then, the market power of America’s biggest corporations has only continued to increase, with this result: A tiny number of companies dominate slews of major industries—from pharmaceuticals and retailers to hospitals and meat processors to defense contractors and social media, to many, many others. This issue was thrown into stark relief during the pandemic when behemoths such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Walmart saw their market values skyrocket while smaller companies all over the country went bankrupt.
Zephyr Teachout contends that monopoly is the forgotten issue of our time.
Monopoly, argues the law professor and former New York congressional and gubernatorial candidate, is a key driver of modern society’s biggest problems, such as low wages, income inequality, financial speculation, restrictions to worker freedom, declining entrepreneurship, and racism.
With her new book, Break Em’ Up: Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money, Teachout seeks to make anti-monopoly a top issue for progressives again. I recently spoke to her by phone about how the Left has missed the monopoly problem, why her book is more about power than economics, and why we need to strive for a “fuck off” economy.
In your introduction, you write that humans have a drive for power that must be checked or tyranny will result. Why did you start like this?
So many questions about politics, power and the economy are really questions about human nature. When we treat Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg as only about the bottom line, we’re misunderstanding motivations. It’s much more than greed. As I write in the book, these are “William the Conqueror” types. They’re out to accumulate power. We need to confront that if we’re going to deal with those pathologies.
You’ve called monopolies “private systems of government.” What did you mean by that?
Certain companies basically regulate us in totally unaccountable ways. So they’re acting like governments in the scope of their power. When Zuckerberg makes privacy decisions, we treat it like a governmental action and the impact is as great or greater than a federal law. But our response is to petition Facebook instead of saying, “Let’s change privacy law altogether for this essential infrastructure.” We need to acknowledge their power and then say this is not a legitimate form of government.