The idea that Big Tech is now a set of interlocking monopolies is not exactly new. Nor is it something that is exclusive to the liberal, progressive, left. But what’s interesting here is the clarity with which the liberal, progressive, complaint is being made. It’s not about the economic implications of monopoly at all. It’s that centres of power that are not subject to the democratic process are not subject to the whims of liberal progressive as they infest the political system.
It’s not even about the power of the consumer and all that – centres of power that aren’t beholden to customers, say – but that these Big Tech companies aren’t beholden to progressives:
For Lynn and Teachout, the most pressing evil among us is the tech platforms—Silicon Valley behemoths that do not merely connect individuals or collect data, but order digital life and commerce. The trouble with Facebook, Google, and Amazon is not measured in excessive profits or consumer prices, but in the way they each create independent systems of power insulated from public accountability.
“Monopoly,” Teachout writes, “is a rival form of government burrowing its way into democratic government.” Where Mills and Hunter detailed the way that midcentury corporate elites corralled public officials into doing their bidding, Teachout and Lynn show how today’s monopolists often simply bypass official mechanisms of democracy to issue their own edicts about who can conduct what activity on what terms.
The complaint is that people like Teachout – political activists – might not be able to influence those monopolies. Not that they are monopolies of course but it’s useful to describe them as such. What really matters is that they are private and that would just never do to those who would use activist politics to change the world.
It’s a fairly stark description of the reality here. Centres of even activity in the society that aren’t subject to some bird screaming at them need to be corralled into being under said thumb. Because, you know, who really should have the power here? The people or those who claim to speak for them?