Barry C. Lynn, one of America's preeminent thinkers, provides the clearest statement yet on the nature and magnitude of the political and economic dangers posed by America’s new monopolies in Liberty from All Masters. "Very few thinkers in recent years have done more to shift the debate in Washington than Barry Lynn." " Franklin Foer Americans are obsessed with liberty, mad about liberty. On any day, we can tune into arguments about how much liberty we need to buy a gun or get an abortion, to marry who we want or adopt the gender we feel. We argue endlessly about liberty from regulation and observation by the state, and proudly rebel against the tyranny of course syllabi and Pandora playlists. Redesign the penny today and the motto would read “You ain’t the boss of me.” Yet Americans are only now awakening to what is perhaps the gravest domestic threat to our liberties in a century" in the form of an extreme and fast-growing concentration of economic power. Monopolists today control almost every corner of the American economy. The result is not only lower wages and higher prices, hence a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. The result is also a stripping away of our liberty to work how and where we want, to launch and grow the businesses we want, to create the communities and families and lives we want. The rise of online monopolists such as Google and Amazon" designed to gather our most intimate secrets and use them to manipulate our personal and group actions" is making the problem only far worse fast. Not only have these giant corporations captured the ability to manage how we share news and ideas with one another, they increasingly enjoy the power to shape how we move and play and speak and think.
Big Tobacco, Big News, Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Stores, Big Motors and now we have Big Data too.
Over the past century, family controlled businesses were the driving force behind our economic system, and over the years that force was either dissipated or undermined by the emergency of big businesses across all sectors of the American economy.
As some businesses amassed economic power and leveraged that into political influence, the set of rules began to change in the 1960s before they eventually gained momentum in the mid-80s. Rising economic powers systematically dismantled the regulatory hurdles along the way, using their ever growing political influence in the name of providing more efficient and better services to customers.
In Liberty from All Masters, journalist and writer Barry Lynn offers a sobering view of the current state of the country’s political economy and its nexus to the political power structure.
Lynn’s lucid prose reveals why The Founding Fathers were concerned about the extreme concentration of power in the English aristocracy and its business structure that led to the support of the autocratic and repressive regime of English rule in North America and India. Citizens by design, the motto of the early leaders of the United States, led to the distribution of wealth and a wider democratic base.
The rules that emerged from the early experiments in efforts of wider dissemination of new technologies were enhanced in the course of the last two centuries. However, the tide has turned since the early 80s, with rules related to the Common Carrier Law often being selectively implemented or just plainly ignored as politicians pander increasingly to the Big Businesses.
Lynn probes further in providing concrete examples of how the extreme concentration of power in digital platform operators has taken a more worrisome form in a way that ultimately affects our democratic institutions. These large corporations that we have come to trust with our data now have the abilities to decide what we search, what we buy, what we sell, what roads we travel on and increasingly what we think and what we should not think.
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Barry C. Lynn is Founder and CEO of the Open Markets Institute in Washington. He is author of Cornered (2010) and End of the Line (2005) in which he pioneered coverage and analysis of America’s new monopoly crisis. His work has been profiled in The New York Times, Politico, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS. Prior to launching OMI, Lynn worked at the New America Foundation for 15 years. Before that he was Executive Editor of Global Business Magazine and a correspondent for the Associated Press and Agence France Presse in South America and the Caribbean.