Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction
By Barry C. Lynn
336 pp.; $26.95
ALTHOUGH SOME Americans rail against the power of "big government;' few understand the real power that controls their everyday lives.
With an outstanding realm of control, private monopolies determine the selection of breakfast cereals we eat, the type of car we drive, where we bank, the medical treatment we receive, and the fashion of our clothes, in addition to the beer we drink, the health insurance we buy, and what we feed our pets.
Over the past twenty years, under the guise of "the free market," conglomerates merged and bought up smaller companies. In this race to consolidate, companies also "rationalized" their commodities, in many cases dropping up to 40 percent of what they formerly produced. They buy from the same suppliers, use interchangeable parts and common ingredients, and re-name similar brands, essentially placing the same product in different packages. For example, one company produces all of the pet food under 150 different brands.
"People say we have an uncontrolled free market but we have the opposite" says Barry C. Lynn, senior fellow at the New American Foundation. "What we have today is a laissez faire American version of feudalism; a private government in the form of private corporations run by private individuals who consolidated power to govern entire activities within our political economy."
In his new book, Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and The Economics of Destruction, Lynn describes the struggles of those throughout U.S. history who beat back the attempts of monopolies to control various industries. The Boston Tea Party fought to overturn monopolization of commerce by the private British East India Company. Alexander Hamilton's attempt to help out his friends with the whiskey tax led to the Whiskey Rebellion. People acting through government prevented a small elite from controlling our railroads, steel mills, the oil industry, and other concentrated powers.
According to Lynn's research, early Americans made decisions to balance power between farmers, consumers, and the market itself. This is why we created "open and public markets." Labor, managers, engineers, shareholders, and local communities ran our corporations, which were viewed as social institutions.
The ultimate function of a well-regulated, open-market system is not to ensure an efficient distribution of...