An investigation of the new American monopolies, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley
Donald Trump swindled America. He sold his fraudulent mix of nationalism and populism to a few hundred thousand desperate people, and walked away with the electoral college. He pledged to drain the swamp, but what we’re getting is a banana republic government based on cronyism, nepotism and narcissism.
Hillary Clinton worked a con of a different kind. She promised enlightened, progressive policies, but she would have delivered her own version of cronyism, nepotism and narcissism. People could sense it. And they didn’t like it.
Our society faces a crisis that cannot be addressed by the establishment ideologies of right and left, Democrat and Republican.
History has brought us to a place where we should have the best economic and political system ever devised: free market capitalism and democracy. It is the perversion of both of these ideals that has pushed the country into the grip of a dangerous demagogue.
Competitive capitalism has been subverted
Capitalism has brought us unimaginable wealth. But in the past 20 years, competitive capitalism has been subverted. A combination of technological change and political manipulation has stifled competition, squelched opportunity and magnified inequality.
The American political system has kept us free and safe. But in the past 20 years, many of the same forces that have distorted our economy have distorted our political process. The forces of concentrated wealth and power have hijacked the government, and obfuscated the political discourse.
The Villain is in Your Hand
The villains of our story pervade your daily life. They make your phone. Keep you entertained. Connect you with humanity. Sell you everything. Answer all your questions. And own and run your government and elected officials.
CRONY NATION investigates the troubling and ominous rise of corporate monopolies to a position of economic, political, social and cultural domination in the US. Super corporations of unprecedented power, in communications, medicine, finance and, most of all, technology, have used market domination and political power to grab a disproportionate share of society’s resources. Stagnation of middle and working class incomes, inequality at Gilded Age levels, and surging populist anger can be largely explained by this vast expansion of corporate power — which we call crony capitalism.
Crony Capitalism: We Were Captured Long Before Trump
First used to portray corrupt family dealings in Asian countries in the 90s, crony capitalism describes a system where business interests “capture” the government in order to block regulation, restrain competition and to amass unearned wealth. We use this concept of cronyism — an idea of increasing influence on both the right and the left — to investigate the new and unbridled sway of the corporate leviathans.
2017 was an awakening, a turning point in the glowingly positive view many had of the technology companies. The horrifying disclosure that Russian-backed cyber terrorists used hacking and social media in an attempt to tip the US election raised major concerns about the newfound power of Facebook and other platforms. People started to wonder if maybe, perhaps, allowing your child to stare at an iPhone for 12 hours might not be a good idea. And then there was the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon, which was somehow a more visceral alert to growing monopoly power.
Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple: We Love You, Then We Don’t
Before last year, the technology companies and their billionaire founders mostly enjoyed a glowing public image (except perhaps in European anti-trust circles). Heroic innovators and job creators, they were welcome in Washington, filled many important administration positions, and received little regulatory or legal scrutiny. It was OK for Google to have huge leverage in the White House– sort of like Goldman Sachs, just not bad guys.
Circus Profit Maximus
Yet a profit-maximizing corporation is still a corporate maximizing corporation. And our story is the story of how profit-maximizers across the economic spectrum have used political influence and raw market power to maximize themselves.