Political leaders of both parties seek financial support for election and personal enrichment. It is about them – not the American people. The combination of concentrated power in government and corporations, and the alignment of interests between the two are a significant danger.
The expanding mass of government in its physical bureaucracies and the body of laws and regulations it propagates, increasing centralization to the federal level, and growing power within the executive are clear threats to liberty. Corporate consolidation through mergers and acquisitions has created behemoths of economic power and political and social influence that also threaten liberty in a manner that often goes unnoticed by the public.
Following the Great Recession of 2008 there was an outcry about banks that were “too big to fail.” It was expected that the issue would be addressed through legislation commonly called Dodd-Frank, but today more assets are held by fewer banks. The too big to fail banks are in fact bigger today. The five largest U.S. banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs) have assets in excess of $11 trillion. Five banks hold 56% of all banking assets in the United States.
Consolidation and concentration of market share is not confined to banking. Media companies continue to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions. Comcast recently announced its intention to buy Time-Warner for $45 billion. The merger would leave Comcast with over 30% of the market. An industry that already has territorial near monopolies is further consolidating. This merger is but one of many occurring in the media sector.
Internet based companies are also highly concentrated. The recent debate about the National Security Agency’s activities captured great interest and concern. Yet, there seems little concern that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon own all manner of personal data about where one goes, what one reads, who one socializes with, and what one buys? All of this data is owned by these giant corporations and they can do with it as they please.
The United States has in the past recognized the threat of consolidation of economic power. Senator John Sherman, author of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 said, "If we will not endure a king as a political power we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life."
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once said in a court opinion that the Sherman Act, “is founded on a theory of hostility to the concentration in private hands of power so great that only a government of the people should have it."
Disrupting the distorted relationship corporations and special interests have with government is focused on campaign finance reform. This effort has failed and often caused unintended negative consequences. A better approach may be:
- An educated, engaged, informed, and inquisitive voter is the best defense against the selling of candidates as consumer products in advertising.
- Reject the strategy of division that the advertising advances. Commit to accepting the common person as well-intentioned and reject the pointing of fingers and name calling of today's political and social discourse.
- Simplify and decentralize government. The consolidation of government power and the complexity of law and regulation enable manipulation by the few to the detriment of the many.