As antitrust awakens from its 40-year, Reagan-induced coma, there's both surging hope that we will tame corporate power, and a backlash that says that antitrust is the wrong framework for reducing the might of giant corporations.
Competition itself won't solve problems like digital surveillance, pollution or labor exploitation. If we fetishize competition for its own sake, we could end up with a competition to see who can violate our human rights most efficiently.
To explain why, I've published a new editorial for EFF's Deeplinks, called "Starve the Beast: Monopoly Power and Political Corruption."
Here's my core thesis: monopolized industries have high profits, which they can spend to legalize abusive conduct.
Monopolized industries *also* have a small number of dominant companies, which makes it easier to agree on a lobbying agenda.
IOW, when an industry is reduced to just a handful of companies, they have more ammo and it's a lot easier for them to agree on their targets - deregulation, expansions of proprietary rights, and regulatory capture.
Which is why monopoly begets monopoly! Remember the Napster era, when tech had almost no lobbying muscle and got its ass routinely handed to it by the much smaller entertainment cartel, who were represented by a handful of wildly profitable companies with lobbying armies?
Tech was disorganized and dynamic, with today's giants becoming tomorrow's also-rans, more concerned with fighting each other than inter-industry rivalries.
Today, with the web reduced to five giant sites filled with screenshots from the other four, it's easy for tech leaders to agree on a common agenda, and they have *So. Much. Money.* to spend on lobbying to make it reality.
That was an expensive war, and the way Big ISP was able to afford it was because it uses regional monopolies to screw customers and workers and amass a vast warchest of lobbying dollars - *and* because the industry is composed of so few companies that they all can all agree.
If we want to smash corporate power and free our lawmakers and regulators to do the people's business, without the corrupting influence of a flood of corporate money, we have to *starve the beast*.
Corporations deprived of monopoly profits can't afford to lobby.
What's more, if we demonopolize our industries - smashing the oligopolies of 1-5 companies that dominate ever sector - so that each industry is a squabbling rabble of hundreds of companies, they won't be able to agree on how to fuck us over anymore.
Critics of Big Tech antitrust are right that it's not enough to attack Big Tech.
If we demonopolize tech without smashing the rest of its supply chain - ISPs and entertainment - then those monopolists will divide Big Tech's share among themselves.
But that's not a reason to leave Big Tech alone. That's a reason to *expand* the antitrust agenda to every industry, to treat the fight against tech monopolies as the start, not the goal, as a way to create momentum for smashing monopolies in *every* sector.
We can't afford another mistake like the one that led to the passage of 2019's EU Copyright Directive, with its Article 17, a rule set to destroy every small EU tech platform and replace them with a Googbook-dominated filternet with our lives at the mercy of copyright bots.
During that fight, advocates for creative workers made the mistake of assuming that by advocating for entertainment monopolies against tech monopolies, they'd improve their own lives.
Rather, it makes both industries' monopolies stronger, and further weakens creative workers' leverage over corporate entertainment behemoths, guaranteeing that virtually all the windfall profits from the Directive will go to shareholders, not workers.
The world deserves better than being allowed to choose which giant, abusive corporations we support in inter-industry battles - none of the giants give a shit about us, except as human shields for their own battles.
Mamot.fr est une serveur Mastodon francophone, géré par La Quadrature du Net.