Break 'em up Recovering our freedom from big ag, big tech, and big money

Zephyr Teachout

Book - 2020

"A passionate attack on the monopolies that are throttling American democracy. Every facet of American life is being overtaken by big platform monopolists like Facebook, Google, and Bayer (which has merged with the former agricultural giant Monsanto), resulting in a greater concentration of wealth and power than we've seen since the Gilded Age. They are evolving into political entities that often have more influence than the actual government, bending state and federal legislatures to their will and even creating arbitration courts that circumvent the US justice system. How can we recover our freedom from these giants? Anti-corruption scholar and activist Zephyr Teachout has the answer: Break 'Em Up. This book is a clarion ca...ll for liberals and leftists looking to find a common cause. Teachout makes a compelling case that monopolies are the root cause of many of the issues that today's progressives care about; they drive economic inequality, harm the planet, limit the political power of average citizens, and historically-disenfranchised groups bear the brunt of their shameful and irresponsible business practices. In order to build a better future, we must eradicate monopolies from the private sector and create new safeguards that prevent new ones from seizing power. Through her expert analysis of monopolies in several sectors and their impact on courts, journalism, inequality, and politics, Teachout offers a concrete path toward thwarting these enemies of working Americans and reclaiming our democracy before it's too late"--

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New York : All Points Books 2020.
Main Author
Zephyr Teachout (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xii, 308 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 263-299) and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Choice Review

Teachout, an attorney and antitrust expert, regards monopolies as forces that regulate taxes, finance political campaigns, and limit employment rights to ultimately subvert democracy. She supports organizing the antitrust movement to reduce monopoly power. Some companies she believes should not exist in their current form include Amazon, Google, Apple, Monsanto/Bayer, Pfizer, and Facebook. The book's first half focuses on detailed current problems with monopolies, such as Uber reducing driver pay after dominating New York City, Amazon slashing corporate margins by charging high fees for improved product placement, Facebook increasing its profit margins while daily newspaper competitors' margins have dropped, and large company political action organizations funding campaigns. The second half of the book shows avenues to reduce monopolies, such as introducing legislation to reduce predatory pricing, making it easier to organize unions, and reducing the approval of major industry mergers. Obtaining patents in the drug industry should be harder. Evergreening (paying to delay companies from producing generic drugs) should be banned. An introduction by Senator Bernie Sanders helps set the political and economic tone of the book. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty and professionals. --Gundars E Kaupins, Boise State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Attorney and political activist Teachout (Corruption in America) makes a passionate and persuasive case for a revitalized antitrust movement to strengthen democracy and improve the lives of middle- and working-class Americans. Explaining that three large poultry processors buy and sell nearly every chicken in the U.S., allowing them to set restrictive, exploitative terms on contract farmers, Teachout forecasts the "chickenization" of the American economy. Companies like Seamless and Uber, she writes, centralize power, profit, data, and decision-making while decentralizing labor and risk. She critiques Amazon, Facebook, and Google for destroying competition; building an advertising model that fosters "surveillance, discrimination, and addiction"; and imperiling the free press. Other corporations come under fire for mandating private arbitration to settle lawsuits, "taking over" political parties and trade associations, and abetting the suppression of the minority vote. Teachout's suggestions for reform include restoring stringent antitrust measures in place before the 1980s and overhauling the Communications Decency Act. Teachout delivers a forceful, clearly articulated vision of "moral markets" built on freedom, choice, and human dignity. Progressives will heed this clarion call for reform. Agent: Gail Ross, the Ross Yoon Agency. (May)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A forceful argument about the stealthy resurgence of monopoly within the global economy. Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University, redirects progressive attention toward this easily overlooked issue. "Wall Street," she writes, "has been a driving force behind the gutting of antitrust laws." The purported democratic norms of the tech economy have clouded such predatory business practices in many aspects of life, from the effect of Uber on drivers' livelihoods, to less obvious but chilling examples--e.g., how poultry monopolies have turned farmers into indentured servants. "Uber successfully sold the idea that, if we wanted to use our phones to get a taxi, we needed to destroy 80 years of anti-monopoly laws," writes Teachout. Furthermore, the "chickenization" model is creeping into many industries, especially restaurant delivery: "Surveillance and power go hand in hand, each reinforcing the other." Race and class inform many of these hidden narratives: In one chapter, the author tracks how arbitration has become an alternate justice system serving the ultrawealthy. She also discusses the "body snatcher" effect of corporate super PACs on the political system: "corporate institutions replacing democratic institutions by burrowing inside them and using their language and forms." Similarly, the journalism industry has been gutted by greedy corporate raiders and their continued search for quarterly profit increases. Regarding the secretive CEOs of social media, Teachout writes, "it is crucial that we understand [Mark] Zuckerberg, and monopolists like him, as seekers of political power, for it is only through political action that they can be tamed." Wide-ranging, well-organized chapters are full of unsettling tidbits, such as Amazon's courting of the surveillance state via commercial data-sharing. Finally, the author looks back at the original populist antitrust movement, but she also makes the salient point that "we shouldn't require people to boycott essential communications infrastructure like Facebook and Google in order to demand that they be broken up." Teachout confidently wields energetic, urgent prose and stark research, adeptly blending subtopics including law and technology. Deserves wide attention in our current political landscape. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.