Saturday, 17 August 2019

The World of Concentration and the Absence of Competition Harming Workers/Consumers and Innovation

Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn recently published in 2019, “The Myth of Capitalism,” which is around 290 pages with endnotes.  Jonathan Tepper is a former hedge fund analyst and trader, and founded Variant Perception, a consultancy.  Denise Hearn is Head of Business Development for Variant Perception.  In “The Myth of Capitalism,” the authors provide a very ambitious analysis and diagnosis of U.S. economic problems—they start with the question: “Who killed your paycheck?,” and provide many policy proposals.  They critique the Chicago/Harvard School approach to antitrust and point to how investors such as Warren Buffet specifically seek out investing in firms in markets with significant concentration.  They point to the significant increase in merger approvals.  The authors point to the technology companies as problematic, but also point to many other industries which are relatively highly concentrated.  They discuss the problem of “tacit cooperation” between firms in markets with relatively high concentration—smart people do not need to have a meeting to get something done like price fixing.  They further discuss how concentration has led to a monopsony in labor markets—there is only one buyer of labor (or just a few).  This is part of the basis of their argument for why we have for the most part been stuck with relatively stagnant wages.  One of their policy prescriptions is renewed, vigorous antitrust enforcement.  They also discuss intellectual property in various sections of the book and raise some of the well-known critiques of the system.  The authors generally seem to believe that because intellectual property resembles a monopoly (although not always is) then it is problematic.  There is not too much of the book discussing the benefits of intellectual property to start-ups—new entrants to the market and how this may ultimately lead to fewer highly concentrated markets.  However, they do discuss the literature concerning a lower number of startups.  Similarly to Professor Timothy Wu's new book, they also raise issues with respect to political freedom and market concentration. This book is available here for around $18.  

I am also in the process of reading Harvard Business School Professor Emerita Shoshana Zuboff's book, "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for A Human Future At the New Frontier of Power," almost 700 pages with endnotes.  So far, she does not seem to think that rigorous antitrust review will make a difference at all--the problem is more centered around the new markets of selling our personal information and habits by technology companies, and then framing and controlling our behavior through software we interact with.  The number of technology companies does not matter.  She believes there is a need to redefine what is happening in this new surveillance age without trying to refer to preexisting structures--we're dealing with something very new with great danger.  This is a very ambitious book.  This book is available here for around $23.  It is interesting to read the two books close in time.  

No comments: