People watch fireworks at Sloans Lake in Lions Park during the celebration of Independence Day, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Cheyenne, Wyo. (Jacob Byk/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)

This Fourth of July, millions of Americans will celebrate (and others will curse) the tradition of setting off firecrackers. It’s a ritual that goes back to the country’s earliest years, when veterans of the Revolutionary War would shoot their muskets into the air on Independence Day. Half a century ago, however, the tradition was dying out—so many citizens were winding up in the ER with missing fingers that most states banned the sale of consumer fireworks. Then, in the 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) passed regulations strictly limiting how much gunpowder could be used in them. Since then, injury rates from firecrackers have plummeted, most states have dropped their bans, and sales have soared. 

As I write in the July/August issue, out today, the firecracker market illustrates a larger point this magazine has long made: Federal regulation is not a hindrance to freedom or prosperity but bulwarks of both. Unfortunately, not long after the CPSC saved the pyrotechnics industry, leaders of both parties adopted a contrary set of ideas, dubbed “neoliberalism”: that deregulating markets was the key to economic growth. 

What followed, Monthly senior editor Phillip Longman explains in his cover story, was a decades-long political attack on federal regulations, augmented by a related pullback in antitrust enforcement, that has led to highly concentrated markets and, ultimately, to today’s inflation. “When shocks like the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine came along,” Longman writes, “the industrial system had no spare capacity and became riddled with choke points, setting off a prolonged frenzy of price gouging that doesn’t self-correct. Call it ‘choke-flation.’” 

Few markets, including the media, have escaped this concentration brought on by deregulation. As Dan Froomkin reveals, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos could come to control the backbone of major newspapers with his investment in in Arc XP, a digital publishing technology platform that’s part of The Washington Post, which he personally owns.

Meanwhile, Marcia Brown reports, recent decisions by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority threaten to paralyze the ability of federal agencies to regulate much of anything—a fact rank-and-file liberals have barely noticed. Fortunately, Brown notes, a bill by Representative Pramila Jayapal that has a decent chance of House passage would go a long way toward neutralizing the Court’s assault on regulatory agencies. Though unlikely to clear the Senate, the measure provides Democrats, and possibly some Republicans, an opportunity to rethink the dangerous path we are on. 

Indeed, as Brian Kettenring writes, the neoliberal political order is showing unmistakable signs of collapsing, even if no one knows what will take its place. What we do know from history, Kettenring warns, is that the period between the end of one political order and the beginning of another is a time of maximum danger.  

Please the find the Table of Contents for our July/August 2022 Issue below.

It’s the Monopoly, Stupid

by Phillip Longman

Unchecked corporate power is fueling inflation.

No Way to Build a Railroad

by Eric Cortellessa

Maryland’s outgoing GOP Governor Larry Hogan is eyeing a 2024 run for president. He is also leaving behind a mass transit mess.

Jeff Bezos’s Next Monopoly: The Press

by Dan Froomkin

With his vast investment in The Washington Post’s digital publishing technology, the Amazon founder could soon control the backbone of most large American newspapers.

Limitations of Statute

by Marcia Brown

The conservative Supreme Court is poised to dismantle the regulatory state. Representative Pramila Jayapal is the lone liberal fighting back.

Sooner the Better

by Aaron Loewenberg

Oklahoma is a model for how states should provide pre-K.

Why We Need Speechwriters Who Look Like America

by Terry Edmonds

America’s first Black presidential speechwriter on how leaders can speak more effectively to a diversifying country.

The AMA’s Dark Secret

by Merrill Goozner

Journalists aren’t allowed inside the supposedly public meetings where the American Medical Association effectively decides (and ratchets up) health care prices.

Editor’s Note: Regulations Make Us Free

by Paul Glastris

Will we fight to keep them?

Cognitive Dissonance in America’s Dairy Land

by Brian Alexander

Wisconsin farmers admire and depend on their undocumented Mexican laborers—and still vote for Trump.

How Mitch McConnell Made the Senate Even Worse

by Norman Ornstein

Republican power grabs and hyperpartisanship are just part of his grim reign as Senate Republican leader.

Washington’s Hundred-Year War on Gays

by Rob Wolfe

A rich, harrowing chronicle of the federal government’s oppression of homosexuals in the 20th century firmly refuses to draw any connection to today’s struggles.

Stop Thanking Vets and Start Listening To Them

by Thomas E. Ricks

An ex-Marine and National Book Award winner offers advice for how to bind our post-9/11 wounds.

America’s Black Founders

by Colin Woodard

David Hackett Fischer demonstrates the centrality of people of African descent in shaping this country’s regional cultures.

Wrecking the College Pecking Order

by Robert Kelchen

A former college president takes aim at U.S. News’s elitist rankings and (sort of) praises the Monthly’s.

Neoliberalism Is Dying. What Comes Next?

by Brian Kettenring

History shows that the period between the end of one political order and the beginning of another is a time of maximum danger.

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.