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Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destructionby Barry Lynn
Synopses & Reviews
You're at the mall, looking to buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. Which of the four eyeglass stores listed in the directory should you visit first? Don't waste a lot of time deciding; it really doesn't matter. A single, huge international corporation owns three of the four eyeglass stores listed. And the fourth? Out of business. Think you'll try your luck at Sears? Don't bother. The same company you've never heard of controls their eyewear department, too. What appears at first to be a fine example of competitive capitalism in action is, in fact, an immense monopoly in disguise. And it's far from being the only one.
In Cornered, journalist Barry C. Lynn paints a genuinely alarming picture: most of our public debates about globalization, competitiveness, creative destruction, and risky finance are nothing more than a cover for the widespread consolidation of power in nearly every imaginable sector of the American economy.
Cornered strips the camouflage from the secret world of twenty-first-century monopolies—neofeudalist empires whose sheer size, vast resources, and immense political power enable them to control virtually every major industry in America in an increasingly authoritarian manner. Lynn reveals how these massive juggernauts, which would have been illegal just thirty years ago, came into being, how they have destroyed or devoured their competition, and how they collude with one another to maintain their power and create the illusion of open, competitive markets.
The Obama administration has promised more aggressive enforcement on antitrust issues, but Lynn argues that they are missing the forest for the trees. For decades, the federal government has all but encouraged companies to buy one another up, outsource all their production, and make their profits by leveraging their market share. It will take more than a lawsuit or two to overthrow America's corporatist oligarchy and restore a model of capitalism that protects our rights as property holders and citizens.
Through stories of real people and real industries, Barry C. Lynn shows how monopolies threaten independent businesses, squelch innovation, degrade the quality and safety of basic products, destabilize our most vital industrial and financial systems, and destroy the very fabric of democracy. Avoiding the partisan cant that has poisoned virtually every important American debate in recent years, he explains how, over the past three decades, leaders of both parties and thinkers across the political spectrum have encouraged and enabled the growth of monopolies. He traces the history of how such now-familiar phrases as "free market" and "consumer welfare" were created and used to pave the way for monopolization. Lynn also demonstrates how the drive for "always lower prices," routinely invoked to justify ruthless practices that might once have landed their perpetrators in jail, makes jobs disappear, puts small businesses out of business, and turns dreams of entrepreneurial success into impossible fantasies.
Complete with an entirely fresh set of solutions based on the traditional American approach of empowering the individual citizen, Cornered is both a wake-up call and a call to arms for anyone who believes in democracy, competition, and liberty for all.
Lynn, one of the vital new voices of his generation, details a fresh set of solutions to our economic crisis based on the traditional American approach of empowering the individual citizen. "Tom Friedman for grownups."--"Washington Post."
Advance Praise for Cornered
"Cornered is a real eye-opener for America's business community. Barry Lynn details how the concentration of power in large global corporations can hurt entrepreneurs, stunt innovation, and slow growth. This book is essential to understanding how we got into our current mess."
—Michael Mandel, chief economist, BusinessWeek
"If you thought you knew how the world works, think again. In this razor-sharp and chilling analysis of today's production system, Lynn hits us—and hits us hard—with his warning about the physical dangers posed by the concentration in our industrial and food systems, which has advanced so far so quickly without most of us realizing. This is a truly groundbreaking and eye-opening piece of work."
—Ha Joon Chang, author of Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
"Is the United States heading down the same economic path as Mexico? As Barry C. Lynn makes clear in this notable book, the answer appears to be yes—America's political economy is increasingly ruled by private monopolists who choke off growth and use the powers of government for their own ends."
—Jorge Castaneda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico and author of Utopia Unarmed and Companero
"If economic institutions are too big to fail, then they are too big. That's a lesson we learned from the recent economic crisis. Or did we? In Cornered, Barry Lynn shows how Washington has doubled down on the same failed policies. Cornered is not only a history, it is a guide to the next meltdown."
—James Pinkerton, contributor, Fox News Channel
"A manifesto for our times."
—Thomas Frank, Wall Street Journal
Barry C. Lynn, one of the most original and surprising students of the American economy, paints a genuinely alarming picture: most of our public debates about globalization, competitiveness, creative destruction, and risky finance are nothing more than a cover for the widespread consolidation of power in nearly every imaginable sector of the American economy.
Cornered strips the camouflage from the secret world of twenty-first-century monopolies-neofeudalist empires whose sheer size, vast resources, and immense political power enable the people who control to direct virtually every major industry in America in an increasingly authoritarian manner. Lynn reveals how these massive juggernauts, which would have been illegal just thirty years ago, came into being, how they have destroyed or devoured their competition, and how they collude with one another to maintain their power and create the illusion of open, competitive markets.
A confluence of small government zealotry and misguided efficient market theories has lead to a complete dismantling of government oversight of industry. Has that brought us the promised economic utopia? Just the opposite. For decades, the dominant elite has used the federal government to all but encourage companies to buy one another up, outsource all their production, and make their profits by leveraging their complete power over the market itself. Lynn makes clear it will take more than a lawsuit or two to overthrow America's corporatist oligarchy and restore a model of capitalism that protects our rights as property holders and citizens, and the independence of our Republic.
Lynn is that rarest of creatures, a journalist whose theoretical writings are taken very seriously by the top policymakers and economic thinkers in Washington and around the world. His work has been compared already to John Kenneth Galbraith and Peter Drucker. The Washington Post called Lynn's last book-on globalization-"Tom Friedman for grownups." Cornered is essential reading for anyone who cares about America and its future.
About the Author
Barry C. Lynn is a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. He has written for Harper's Magazine, the Financial Times, the Harvard Business Review, and the American Prospect, among others. He has appeared on National Public Radio, CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox News, CBS, MSNBC, the BBC, and C-SPAN. He is the author of End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation.
Table of Contents
Preface: Of Rule and Ruin vii
1 The Hidden Monopolies Everywhere 1
2 Supply and Command 31
3 The Crystal House 57
4 The Market Masters 92
5 In the Cockpit 124
6 Lightning Escapes the Bottle 152
7 The American Piece 178
8 Wreckonomics 101 211
9 To Keep Our Republic 238
Select Bibliography 283
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