Est. 1995

Tag: Oligarchy

The Crisis of Monopoly

Cell phone service that costs $15 a month in France or $12 a month in Australia bills out at an average of $61.85 per month in the United States. High-speed broadband that’s a bit over $31 a month in France or $36 in Germany (for higher speeds and better reliability than almost anywhere in the United States) averages nearly $70 per month in the US. Similar metrics are found with pharmaceuticals, airfares, and medical costs, among dozens of other product and service categories. Why is this? Monopoly.

The average American family pays an annual “monopoly tax”—in additional costs for pretty much everything—of around $5,000, according to economist Thomas Philippon. And things are steadily getting worse as monopolistic concentrations continue to tighten their grip on every American industry from banking to telecom to food.

Monopoly (using the term in its broadest sense, to include everything from a single company controlling a market to a half dozen companies working in a cartel-like fashion) is why working people’s pay hasn’t gone up since 1982 when President Ronald Reagan’s Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice stopped enforcing the anti-monopoly laws. The rich have gotten fabulously richer since then. Consumers, when harmed or ripped off, have largely been stripped of their legal powers to hold businesses accountable. America now lags behind other countries in innovation, which is why (as one small example) we have the highest pharmaceutical and healthcare costs in the world.

The crisis of corruption is deep and covers every known strain from political, media, business, sexual, moral, and economic. Whatever particular variant is eroding the American way of life, the common denominator is that all serve as a marker of collapse, decay, and rot within the systems, institutions, and organizations that are vital to the sustainment of American society.  ~Steve Schmidt

Our streets are filled with guns, our schools have been stripped of books and school supplies, and our food is so deficient in nutrients (vegetables today have about half the nutrients they did in 1950) that we are experiencing a malnutrition-induced obesity epidemic.

Because of monopolies, billionaires pay lower tax rates than you do, and the nation’s largest companies not only usually pay no taxes at all but also get billions every year in subsidies funded with your tax dollars. So many families have fallen out of the middle class that this country is experiencing epidemics of suicide, opioid addiction, and divorce. Our defense budget is bloated, while our returning soldiers find it harder and harder to get jobs or services.

Although it’s almost never discussed in our highly monopolized media, monopoly is why right-wing radio and TV are found in every nook and cranny, every town small and large across America, while progressive media is marginalized. It’s why our politics are broken and foreign governments have been able to manipulate our elections and seize control of so many of our politicians.

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Cancer and Monopoly

Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality

Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andreessen are American oligarchs, controlling online access for billions of users on Facebook, Twitter, Threads, Instagram, and WhatsApp, including 80 percent of the US population. Moreover, from the outside, they appear to be more interested in replacing our current reality—and our economic system, imperfect as it is—with something far more opaque, concentrated, and unaccountable, which, if it comes to pass, they will control.

Their plan for your future involves nothing less than confronting the nihilism of a looming dystopia. And four of the projects they are pursuing to address their visions will need tens of trillions of dollars of (mostly public) investment capital over the next two decades.

These Technocrats make up a kind of interlocking directorate of Silicon Valley, each investing in or sitting on the boards of the others’ companies. Their vast digital domain controls your personal information; affects how billions of people live, work, and love; and sows online chaos, inciting mob violence and sparking runs on stocks. These four men have long been regarded as technologically progressive heroes, but they are actually part of a broader antidemocratic, authoritarian turn within the tech world, deeply invested in preserving the status quo and in keeping their market-leadership positions or near-monopolies—and their multi-billion-dollar fortunes secure from higher taxes. (“Competition is for suckers,” Thiel once posited.)

Excerpted from The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto by Jonathan Taplin. Copyright © 2023 by Jonathan Taplin. Printed with permission of Public Affairs, an imprint of Perseus Books LLC, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.

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How Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andreessen-Four Billionaire Techno-Oligarchs-Are Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality

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