By David Dayen
From the airlines we fly to the food we eat, how a tiny group of corporations have come to dominate every aspect of our lives—by one of our most intrepid and accomplished journalists.
Over the last forty years our choices have narrowed, our opportunities have shrunk, and our lives have become governed by a handful of very large and very powerful corporations. Today, practically everything we buy, everywhere we shop, and every service we secure comes from a heavily concentrated market.
This is a world where six major banks control most of our money, four airlines shuttle most of us around the country, and four major cell phone providers connect most of our communications. If you are sick you can go to one of three main pharmacies to fill your prescription, and if you end up in a hospital almost every accessory to heal you comes from one of a handful of large medical suppliers.
Dayen, the editor of the American Prospect and author of the acclaimed Chain of Title, provides a riveting account of what it means to live in this new age of monopoly and how we might resist this corporate hegemony.
Through vignettes and vivid case studies Dayen shows how these monopolies have transformed us, inverted us, and truly changed our lives, at the same time providing readers with the raw material to make monopoly a consequential issue in American life and revive a long-dormant antitrust movement.
David Wineberg on San Francisco Review of Books wrote:
"Our country is saturated with monopolies, but some might ask, does it matter? As Dayen shows, monopolies make it harder for workers to wield power when there are fewer and fewer employers to choose from. They make the economy less dynamic and innovative. They make society less equal, and by amassing so many resources, they are able to amass power to protect those resources. Monopolies are even a threat to our very democracy, drowning out the voices of the people. Worries about monopolies date as far back as ad 483. [...] Dayen mentions much of this history, but his aim is not simply to recount it or engage in the contemporary debates over the ways monopolies warp our economy and our society; instead, he wants to spark a modern movement through real, human stories. Corporate concentration and antitrust regulation can sound like dry issues. Dayen seeks to remind us of the very real consequences they have in our everyday lives."
Anonymous on Kirkus Reviews wrote:
"Americans don't understand how much they're being hurt by monopolies in virtually every sector of the economy. David Dayen attempts to fill that knowledge gap with Monopolized. He does it far too well. On the other hand, the data is endless. [...] Every chapter of the book takes on a different sector of the economy. The ugliness is plentiful [...] For all the angst this book generates in the reader, it ends totally unexpectedly on a remarkably high note. There are observable stirrings in the antitrust/antimonopoly community. Dayen says the Democratic presidential candidates are actually talking about it publicly. Recent court decisions have finally begun going against the monoliths. Employees, such as Google’s, are suddenly demanding their employer be respectful. Protest movements are taking shape. States are suing to overturn federal decisions to allow obviously monopolistic mergers. There is new hope. All it needs is momentum, which means everyone pushing in the same direction, vocally, loudly, and consistently. It is more than time for the pendulum to swing back. As Dayen points out right off the top, sufficiently powerful laws have been on the books for over a hundred years. If Americans can stop electing billionaire monopolists, maybe the laws can be enforced once again."
Anonymous on Publisher's Weekly wrote:
"As the executive editor of the American Prospect, one of the most progressive publications in America, it’s no surprise that Dayen eviscerates the flawed system that has propped up the modern economy for decades: monopolies, the collection of faceless corporations that manipulate the system while placing the burden of the work on the backs of everyday people, whether they know it or not. The author digs deep into the problem, chronicling his travels around the U.S. to see not only the macro effects of monopolies, but their very real impacts on real people. Each of the chapters begins with the phrase “Monopolies are why...” and proceeds to use painful examples to illustrate Dayen’s cogent arguments. Examples include: “why hundreds of journalists became filmmakers, then back to writers, then unemployed,” or “why a small business owner and his girlfriend had to get permission from Amazon to live together.” The author covers such usual suspects as the banking industry, the communications industry, and big pharma, but he shines a light on the shady corners of the prison system and even the funeral industry, illuminating the breadth and depth of the insidious effects of a multilayered system that follows and controls its victims throughout their lives. Dayen’s main thread is inequality, a natural consequence of one entity having nearly complete control over a market. Readers may know much of this information, but it’s still shocking to read about the damaging consequences of superconcentrated markets. Economists know how to fight it, as Dayen clearly explains, but getting people to recognize how they’re being used is exceedingly difficult. It’s a striking social and economic dilemma that the author thankfully exposes, just as he did with the foreclosure crisis in Chain of Title (2016). A powerful, necessary call to arms to strengthen the antitrust movement and fight a system whose goal is complete control."
Anonymous on Booklist wrote:
"American Prospect editor Dayen (Chain of Title) delivers a sweeping, deeply researched assessment of the adverse consequences of monopolies on American life. A chapter on the agricultural industry explains how the “concentrated animal feeding operations” of corporate hog farms put smaller competitors out of business, damage the environment, and endanger public health. Dayen also details how tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook degrade online journalism; how pharmaceutical companies prevent people from buying insulin and other essential medications at an affordable price; and how Amazon exploits contract delivery drivers and third-party sellers. Tracing the steady decline of antitrust enforcement across the past few decades, Dayen notes, for instance, that 51 airlines merged between 1979 and 1988, and that four major carriers now control more than 80% of U.S. routes. In the book’s final chapter, he calls for the reinterpretation of existing antitrust laws “to cover the full spectrum of harms, beyond just consumer welfare,” and describes the emergence of antimonopoly movements in the U.S. and abroad. Balancing copious data with profiles of workers and business owners, and writing in clear, accessible language, Dayen makes a persuasive argument that reining in big business should be a priority for American voters and policy makers. This is an incisive, irrefutable call to action."
Dayen has collected data and case studies that reveal how a handful of megacorporations dominates daily life to the detriment of many Americans. [...] He drives home his points with chapter titles presenting such seemingly ridiculous premises as, “monopolies are why people keep contracting deep vein thrombosis on long-haul flights,” that turn out to be based in fact. His deep dive into corporate power not only retrieves evidence that proves such statements correct but also illuminates other abuses. Dayen’s investigation is as well-written and compelling as it is disturbing in its detailed and hard-hitting revelations. But Dayen moves beyond the injustice and insult of it all to remind readers that America has faced the threat of monopolies and unfair economic practices in the past and created ways to regulate and rein in such damaging practices. And as his concluding chapter on fighting back makes clear, the U.S. can do so again with a rise in citizen awareness and activism."
Discussion with Dayan on Monopolized
A discussion with the author by Town Hall Seattle:
- "Unsanitized: How the Pandemic Expands Corporate Power - And how we can fight back" - article by Dayen on The American Prospect, 22 July 2020
About David Dayen
David Dayen is the executive editor of The American Prospect. His work has appeared in The Intercept, The New Republic, HuffPost, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and more. He is the author, most recently, of Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power and Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize.
Table of Contents of Monopolized
- Monopolies Are Why People Keep Contracting Deep Vein Thrombosis on Long-Haul Flights
- Monopolies Are Why a Farmer's Daughter Is Crying behind the Desk of a Best Western
- Monopolies Are Why Hundreds of Journalists Became Filmmakers, then Back to Writers, then Unemployed
- Monopolies Are Why Students Sit in Starbucks Parking Lots at Night to Do Their Home Work
- Monopolies Are Why Teamsters Stormed a Podium to Tell One Another About Their Dead Friends and Relatives
- Monopolies Among Banks Are Why There Are Monopolies Among Every Other Economic Sector
- Monopolies Are Why America Can't Build or Run a Single Weapon System Without Assistance from China
- Monopolies Are Why a Small Business Owner and His Girlfriend Had to Get Permission from Amazon to Live Together
- Monopolies Are Why Hospitals Can Give Patients Prosthetic Limbs and Artificial Hearts but Not Salt and Water in a Bag
- Monopolies Are Why a Woman Found Her Own Home Listed for Rent on Zillow
- Monopolies Are Why a Family Has Seen Only the Top of Their Loved One's Head for the Past Two Years
- Monopolies Are Why I Traveled to Chicago and Tel Aviv to Learn How to Stop Them