Today’s weekly summary is going to be called “What Free Market?”, and its quote comes from Barry Lynn’s book Cornered about the effect of hidden monopolies on the economy. It may look like the stores contain a dazzling variety of goods, but often all the brands in a sector are made by one or two companies, and even apparent rivals are likely to have overlapping supply chains. It’s much easier for an enterprising individual to build a better mousetrap than to get it onto the local WalMart’s shelves without selling the idea to some megacorp first.
What’s everybody been talking about this week? The Olympics, obviously, but I can’t improve on the nonstop TV coverage. However, I couldn’t resist joining the cacophony about Chick-fil-A and Romney’s trip to London.
This week’s other article centers on what I’m learning from Lynn’s book. One issue I keep coming back to in the Sift is rising inequality. But all along, I’ve felt like I’ve been missing a piece of the puzzle. The usual explanations — globalization, lobbyists, bailouts, tax cuts for the rich, etc. — all play a part, but I don’t think they fully explain the explosive accumulation of wealth at the very top. Maybe monopoly is that missing puzzle-piece, especially the monopolies and near-monopolies that get between consumers and the people who make or invent the products we buy.