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.
Thom points out that the “rule” United Airlines cited to justify beating the bejesus out of one of their customers does not exist. “Deny boarding” is not the same thing as “removal from the plane.”
Meanwhile, Michael Hiltzik dissects United’s excuses. Here’s a bit from his piece:
United CEO Oscar Munoz then made things worse with a statement of Orwellian doublespeak. “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” he said. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” whatever that means.
But Munoz, whose version of the episode appears to come from the playbook of how to dig oneself into an ever deeper hole, also undermined the argument that the flight was overbooked. He related that “after the flight was fully boarded,” gate agents “were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.” The implication is that the crew members heading to Louisville were late in arriving, that every passenger held a paid ticket and had been properly boarded, and that only belatedly did United decide to pull passengers off the plane to make room for the crew.
Video via SeattlePI.