Titans of Industry category archive
Josh Marshall has a long and thoughtful piece on the power of Google (and, by extension, other concentrators of influence). The piece was prompted by allegations of Google’s bullying a website the views of which Google found distasteful (no, it wasn’t one of those websites that have been so much in the news lately). Rather, it seems from the context of Marshall’s remarks, which are all I know of the situation at this point (links are in the post) to be a website that questioned the concentration of power in the hands of corporations, including digital outfits such as Google.
I have always found Josh Marshall to be a careful and deliberate thinker and commend the post to your attention. Here’s a bit:
But what is more interesting to me than the instances of bullying are the more workaday and seemingly benign mechanisms of Google’s power. If you have extreme power, when things get dicey, you will tend to abuse that power. It’s not surprising. It’s human nature. What’s interesting and important is the nature of the power itself and what undergirds it. Don’t get me wrong. The abuses are very important. But extreme concentrations of power will almost always be abused. The temptations are too great. But what is the nature of the power itself?
I used to travel for work. I was stepping on airplanes two or three times a month to fly all around the USA to marvelous sites such as Fargo, North Dakota, and Monroe, Louisiana (no offense to the persons in those cities; I was always treated with hospitality, but the getting there . . . .). If I never step on another US airline, it will be too soon.
At the Boston Review, K. Sabeel Rahman discusses the return of “Vulture Capitalism.” Here’s how he starts his essay:
In 1913 the great American lawyer Louis Brandeis railed against “The Curse of Bigness” in Harper’s Weekly, documenting the troubling concentration of economic power among the new tycoons and trusts of the industrial age, from railroads to steel to oil. By establishing monopolies, he argued, these private actors could dictate prices and shape the terms of access to essential goods, thus allowing them to exploit, extract, and otherwise dominate society.
But behind the monopolies lay an even more dangerous force: the financiers who jointly invested in these companies through a variety of legal and corporate vehicles. For Brandeis, this “money trust” of “banker-barons” was the ultimate villain in the industrial economy since it existed beyond the ordinary scope of traditional checks and balances. In his famous pamphlet, Other People’s Money, he warned that financiers had “acquired control so extensive as to menace the public welfare.”
Follow the link for the rest. The time it takes to read it will be well spent, because all that was old is new again.