A major Washington-based think tank’s decision to fire a prominent Google critic earlier this week brought to the surface the massive and “disturbing” influence large tech companies have on political debate in the U.S., leading many analysts and lawmakers to call for the creation of an anti-monopoly movement to take on the threat consolidated corporate power poses to the democratic process.
“Your liberties are every day more at risk as long as we allow a few giant corporations—especially in online commerce—to continue to extend their reach into and over the world of ideas.”
—Barry Lynn, Citizens Against Monopoly
As Brian Fund and Hamza Shaban note in an analysis for the Washington Post, “funding of think tanks is just one way Silicon Valley is expanding its influence in Washington.” Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are also “regularly setting records in their spending on lobbying and are pushing as many as 100 issues—or more—every year.”
Such clout has allowed tech companies to exert enormous influence on economic policy, and on the terms of political discussion.
A stark indication of this influence was on display Wednesday, when Barry Lynn, a prominent critic of corporate power, was ousted from the influential think tank New America for praising the European Union’s decision to fine Google for “abusing its market dominance.”
As a consequence of this experience, Lynn spearheaded the creation of Citizens Against Monopoly, a project devoted to documenting and warning against “the dangers of concentrated private power.”
“[S]ince the early days of the Reagan administration, power over almost all forms of economic activity in America has been steadily concentrated in fewer and fewer hands,” Lynn notes in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “This includes retail and transportation. It includes pharmaceuticals and farming. It includes almost every corner of the internet.”
This consolidation of private power is not only a threat to “our economic well-being,” Lynn observes. It is also a dire threat to democracy itself.
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