The Economist Goes Anti-Monopoly

The Economist magazine is joining the anti-monopoly cause.

A special report in this week’s issue focuses on the decline of competition and dynamism in Western economies, especially the United States, and the rise of much too-powerful firms. This combination has led to lower growth, more inequality, and a widespread belief that the game is “rigged.” The report calls for new and improved anti-trust policies that aim to bring back robust competition.

The magazine calculates that about 20 percent of the U.S. economy is controlled by monopolies or emerging monopolies, and a whopping 38 percent of the market value of S&P 500 firms fall into either category. The list of companies and industries that need special attention will already be familiar to any reader of the Washington Monthly: Google, Facebook, credit card companies, airline companies, defense contractors, and drug distributors.

Needless to say, the Economist wasn’t too hot on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, legislation that would end shareholder supremacy, or Rep. Keith Ellison’s Merger Retrospective Act, which would require the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to conduct annual retrospective studies of how mergers have effected the economy. The magazine, though, was even less enthused by the current conservative position: hands firmly under ass.

This is fertile political and policy ground that Republicans are yielding entirely to Democrats, who should ride it all the way to 2020.

Joshua Alvarez

Joshua Alvarez is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal. He edits syndicated opinion columns at the Washington Post, and can be reached at joshuaalvarezmail@gmail.com.