Monopoly, fascism and antitrust
November 13, 2018 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Extreme economic concentration creates conditions ripe for dictatorship - "In the 1930s it contributed to the rise of fascism. Alarmingly, we are experimenting again with a monopolized economy."
It is a story that should sound uncomfortably familiar: An economic crisis yields widespread economic suffering, feeding an appetite for a nationalistic and extremist leader. The leader rides to power promising a return to national greatness, deliverance from economic suffering and the defeat of enemies foreign and domestic (including big business). Yet in reality, the leader seeks alliances with large enterprises and the great monopolies, so long as they obey him, for each has something the other wants: He gets their loyalty, and they avoid democratic accountability...

From a political perspective, we have recklessly chosen to tolerate global monopolies and oligopolies in finance, media, airlines, telecommunications and elsewhere, to say nothing of the growing size and power of the major technology platforms. In doing so, we have cast aside the safeguards that were supposed to protect democracy against a dangerous marriage of private and public power.
The Supermanagerial Reich - "In Nazi Germany, economic history shows us a rapid change in the distribution of income and the emergence of a managerial elite who obtained an outsized share of national income, not just the now-proverbial one percent, but the top 0.1 percent. These were Nazi Germany's equivalent to today's so-called 'supermanagers' (to use Thomas Piketty's now-famous term). This parallel with today's neoliberal society calls for a closer examination of the place of supermanagers in both regimes, with illuminating and unsettling implications."

Economists think antitrust policy should pay more attention to workers - "There is mounting evidence that some labour markets are not competitive."

Why the FTC Should Focus on Labor Monopsony - "Economic theory tells us that firms are more likely to exploit labor market power than product market power in the United States today. And it tells us that the government should devote more resources to labor market litigation than to product market litigation."

BigLaw (Davis Polk) On Populist Antitrust - "This client memorandum examines the core elements and growing influence of the progressive antitrust movement, reviews its possible acceptance by government institutions, and considers whether it could modify the consumer welfare standard as the framework for antitrust analysis in the U.S."
In recent years, a new populist school of antitrust thinking has emerged, known as “Neo-Brandeisian” to its proponents and “hipster” to its detractors. There are varying formulations of this movement, but proponents generally point to the purported increase in economic concentration and corporate profits in the U.S. economy to advocate for more aggressive antitrust enforcement, with respect to both mergers and other conduct. One notable element of this movement is a push to expand or even replace the established “consumer welfare” standard—which focuses on prices and outputs in balancing potential competitive harms against procompetitive efficiencies—by adopting a more rigid presumption that corporate “bigness” and large market share in themselves harm consumers. Some proponents, moreover, advocate for consideration of nontraditional factors in antitrust analysis, such as wages, employment levels, or growing inequality.

Such approaches, which could significantly increase the burden on merging parties and allegedly dominant firms, have gained support from prominent figures on both the left and the right. Nevertheless, thus far, the new populism has not made notable inroads with antitrust practitioners, antitrust enforcement agencies, or the courts. The differences between long-standing practice and the new progressive antitrust proposals have come into sharp focus in recent weeks, taking center stage at the FTC’s ongoing “Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.”

Could populist antitrust proposals replace the established consumer welfare framework for antitrust analysis in the United States? Whether the new populist antitrust agenda will take hold depends on the extent to which it can persuade the antitrust enforcement agencies, Congress, and the courts—all of which are interrelated and influence one another—of its underlying evidence and policy prescriptions. Indeed, the willingness of one of these government institutions to advance or reject populist perspectives could affect how open the others will be to revising antitrust thinking.
-Bad Capitalism
-The Myth of Capitalism
-The great political economists broke the power of princes by speaking to the public
-What the corporate welfare state used to look like and what an individual-focused welfare system might look like
-A big reason for wealth inequality is that rich people own most of the equity, and equity has high expected returns
-The "silver spoon" tax: how to strengthen wealth transfer taxation

Let's take a look at Lincoln and his GOP, shall we?
In the 1850s, rich slave owners-- less than 1% of the population-- controlled the federal government and ran it for their own benefit, refusing to pay taxes or submit to regulation, but demanding federal power to hunt down their slaves and protect slavery.

They silenced opposition by controlling the media; warned voters that slavery was all that protected the status of poor white men; and insisted they had the right to spread slavery to the West, and then nationally, because the Constitution protected property, including slaves.

Slavery choked out poor white workers, who could not compete with rich landowners, but slave owners thought that was good because rich men were the nation's true leaders, anyway, supervising those lesser beings who actually did the productive work...

it was imperative that those "mudsills" did not vote, because they would want more of the money they produced, and the wealthy could not continue to amass fortunes and direct society as they wished. Slave owners must keep power to make the US great.

Lincoln denied that capital should rule labor. Instead, workers-- producers-- were the heart of the nation's economy, and thus the heart of the nation. It was workers, not capitalists, who drove growth. They MUST have a say in their government, or the rich would choke them out, and turn America into an oligarchy that would become mired in the past, because the wealthy hated innovation, and had no incentive to do it.

When the new Republican Party ran Lincoln for president in 1860, slave holders warned voters that black Americans would rise up, raping and killing whites. They made sure poor whites could not get real news, and kept restive poor whites from the polls.

When Lincoln won anyway, the slave holders immediately created their own nation based in the idea that some men were better than others. They made war on the United States...

Meanwhile, funding and manning the war forced Republicans to codify their principle that men at the bottom fueled the economy. They weighted finances toward the poor, creating new national money backed by the Treasury, not by bankers, and floating bonds to regular folks.

They invented national taxation, putting manufacturing taxes on everything (these were passed on to consumers), creating the graduated income tax (taxes paid 21% of the government's war expenses), and inventing the IRS (it had a different name, but was the same bureau).

To enable nascent business to pay taxes, they put a tariff wall around the country to protect them. Then, to enable folks to pay taxes, they set about providing opportunity for folks without money. They passed the Homestead Act, giving free land to farmers.

To help those farmers succeed, they established the Department of Agriculture, to get them good seeds and information, and passed a law to make it easier for immigrants to come to the US. They also established state universities, so poor men could get educations.

Then, they took on the huge public works program of the transcontinental railroads, so men could go West to the mines and prairies more easily. (Yes, this devastated American Indian tribes. Don't @ me-- I wrote a book about it. That's not the point of this thread.)

And, finally, to make sure all men had equal access to opportunity, they amended the Constitution to end slavery, and to give the government power to enforce that amendment. Both pieces were huge. They said the government would now work for regular folks, not for the rich.

When former Confederates still tried to hang onto white supremacy, the Republicans backed the Fourteenth Amendment, which tried to protect black rights, forced southern states to let black men vote, and declared birthright citizenship.

When Georgia nonetheless threw out black legislators, the Republican Congress then backed the Fifteenth Amendment, providing for universal manhood suffrage, with the belief that if all folks could vote, the electorate would put in power a government that would work for them.

So, yes, Lincoln was a Republican. He put in place our first active government, providing free land, education, and public works to poor folks to enable them to rise and contribute to society. This Republican Party was enormously popular, so popular that it won for a generation.

We should remember Lincoln's principles and vote accordingly. Lincoln stood against a cabal of very wealthy men controlling the government and the nation. Lincoln called for us to vote for leaders who would make government answer to us all.
Scott Walker's War on the Public Sector Came Back to Bite Him - "The Wisconsin governor crippled unions and starved school budgets. It was the schools that got him."

Foxconn and the Folly of State Corporate Welfare - "The state offered billions to win a big factory. It will create some jobs, but at a staggering cost for taxpayers."

FDR knew how to negotiate - "In 1942 FDR proposed a maximum income of $25,000 a year. 100% of income over $25,000 (approximately $387,000 today) would be taxed. Congress, corporations, and the rich lost their minds. But, amazingly, they compromised on 94%."

Industrial policy - "To the extent that it ever succeeds, works through intensified selection effects weeding out under-performing firms and accelerating learning, not primarily via import protection. You could call this the conservation of creative destruction."

A Land Grant for the 21st Century: Silicon Valley Democrat channels Lincoln for tech-to-Trump-country bill - "Ro Khanna tells Guardian multibillion-dollar bill to put tech institutions in middle America is inspired by Morrill Act of 1862." America Needs a Bigger House - "To better represent the country, Congress must add many more seat."

To Fix Congress, Make It Bigger. Much Bigger. - "Radically expanding the House of Representatives would help solve some of the biggest problems facing Congress and, by extension, the country."

Increasing the size of the U.S. House to 1,600 members - "Countries with higher constituent-to-member ratios have more economic inequality."

Pack the House: How to Fix the Legislative Branch - "The easiest way to fix the legislative branch is simple: add more representatives to the House. The legal mechanism for doing it already exists: the CAA."
posted by kliuless (15 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. Can't wait to dive in to this. Thank you kliuless!
posted by pjsky at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dictatorship has a psychological way of inserting itself, by way of the family structure where wealth is traditionally expected to be passed down. When there is no wealth or opportunity to pass down and someone feels insecure about their future, they are then primed to adopt a fake father figure who challenges their insecurity into action. It is the mind's way of rejecting the pain of an imagined family failure, a decline made apparent by other families succeeding. By adopting a new father figure, who gives permission to take back their imagined birthright, followers then channel their pride through traditionalism, usually by scapegoating outsiders. This does not threaten those other families of wealth, which they are emulating after all.
posted by Brian B. at 7:13 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:20 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

This post is a true tour de force! Thank you!
posted by swlabr at 7:22 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I never knew Lincoln advocated in favor of the worker. I already knew that the GOP claiming to be "the party of Lincoln" was dubious at best, and only superficially true, but goodness. If a person existed today, and won the presidency, who was as divergent from conservative belief as Lincoln was in the 1860s, that person would likely get JFK'd.

I'll have to dive in on the more meaningful parts of the post later (if my psyche can handle it...I'm overworked as it is and I don't know if I can deal with more reasons feeding into the existential crisis that concerns my place in this country), but as always, thank you for putting this post together.
posted by Gatyr at 7:48 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

As we are repeating the capitalist crisis of the 20s and 30s I’m not surprised we’re seeing an uptick in fascist and dictatorial popularity as it is the response to capitalism in crisis that doesn’t involve changing the status quo.
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love you, kliuless.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:55 AM on November 13, 2018

I never knew Lincoln advocated in favor of the worker. I already knew that the GOP claiming to be "the party of Lincoln" was dubious at best, and only superficially true, but goodness. If a person existed today, and won the presidency, who was as divergent from conservative belief as Lincoln was in the 1860s, that person would likely get JFK'd.

Let's not do that.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:01 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

If I can dig up the source in the crowded stacks that are meant to be my bookshelves, I'll add it, but I was shocked to read that apparently mid-war, with many resources already in short supply, Nazi analysts worked out their factories could produce a certain shell for 12 marks a unit, with a profit margin.

They then negotiated a contract to pay 20 marks a shell.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Populism and the New Oligarchy (2013)
If the crowd has a personality, a psychology, a ‘mind’, an ‘imagination’, ‘sentiments’ and a ‘morality’ (as indicated by Le Bon’s chapter titles), then it also has a gender. In the nineteenth century, no one doubted that the crowd was a female and behaved accordingly:
In many descriptions of women written in the nineties, females embodied all that was threatening, debasing and inferior. Like the insane, they revelled in violence; like children, they were incessantly buffeted by instincts; like barbarians, their appetite for blood and sexuality was insatiable. [11]
The comparison with women and children cannot but bring to mind one of the most famous passages in Western political literature: Book One of the Politics, where Aristotle establishes a homology in the relations between master and slave, man and woman, father and offspring, and thus fixes the chain master–husband–father, on the one hand, and that of slave–woman–child, on the other. In the feminization of the crowd, what matters is not so much the cheap psychology applied to it as the underlying appeal to the inexorability of subordination.

These ideas had a numerous progeny...


Political terms, as Pierre Bourdieu insisted, should be regarded not merely as tools but as stakes in the political struggle. When in the eighteenth century Voltaire and Diderot appropriated light and clarity—defining themselves as ‘enlightened’ and casting their opponents into the obscurity of ‘the dark ages’—they had already won the contest. In a minor way, the same thing occurred in the 1970s, when the nouveaux philosophes appropriated the ‘new’ and expelled their own opponents into the ‘old’, the past. (On a yet smaller scale, the Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, attempts a similar operation in his talk of ‘scrapping’ the current leadership of his Democratic Party, relegating it to the role of an old jalopy.) During the Cold War, the West appropriated the word ‘freedom’: the station broadcasting propaganda to the East was called Radio Free Europe, and the most widely disseminated text by a Soviet defector was Victor Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom (1946). The West defined itself as the ‘free world’, while for its part the Soviet bloc had appropriated the words ‘people’ and ‘popular’, as in the People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe. As a result, the epithet became ever more unmentionable in the West, because ‘popular’ referred to what lay beyond the Iron Curtain. It is sufficient to think of the suspicion generated in the US by Allende’s Popular Unity government in Chile. In the West, the people were pushed to the margins of political discourse. What Roosevelt had called the ‘American people’ was translated into the ‘middle class’.

Today, although its message is very similar to that of the nineteenth-century populists, not even the Occupy movement invokes the people...


The move that allows Hofstadter to associate the progressivist populism of the nineteenth century with the Cold War right involves an inversion of perspectives: ‘The utopia of the Populists was in the past, not the future.’ Hence it was not only a utopia—and thus unrealizable—but a reactionary one, although Hofstadter concedes that ‘they did not express themselves in such terms’. [20] The second move consists in reducing the class struggle to a conspiracy theory: if the vast majority have to suffer, it is because of a conspiracy by the 1 per cent. Hence a charge that will pursue all those accused of populism down to the present—that of over-simplifying reality: ‘The problems that faced the Populists assumed a delusive simplicity: the victory over injustice, the solution for all social ills, was concentrated in the crusade against a single, relatively small but immensely strong interest, the money power.’ [21]

The final, most vicious assault is launched when Hofstadter labels nineteenth-century populists anti-Semites: ‘it was chiefly Populist writers who expressed that identification of the Jew with the usurer’, which was ‘the central theme of the American anti-Semitism of the age’. [22] This is a charge that continues to hang over those accused of populism today. [...] Hofstadter is certainly not alone in rendering populism ‘fascist’ and fascism ‘populist’. [24] But he is the prime example of it, and it was under his influence that this image of populism was established as the new orthodoxy in the international academy; not least through the 1967 LSE conference on populism, discussed above, of which Hofstadter was one of the chief promoters. His view of populism has been hegemonic in political science ever since. [25]

Thus, by the end of the 1960s populism had already acquired all the negative connotations that it retains to this day...


The new meaning of populism à la Hofstadter performed the role of the hyphen between the totalitarianisms to perfection. First, as a ‘utopia of the past’, it connected the historic threat of fascism with the looming, future menace of communism. Second, populism was deemed inherently authoritarian. Not for nothing is the plebiscite, the institution most closely associated with populism—populists are regarded as quintessential supporters of ‘plebiscitary democracy’—the only one that retains a clear trace of its ‘plebeian’ origin (plebs: common people; scitum: decree). Populism is supposedly authoritarian because the unnamed entity underlying it—once again, the unmentionable people—is authoritarian. The people’s alleged propensity for despotism is another cliché inherited from the classical tradition. For Aristotle, where the people are sovereign, they become ‘despotic’, and ‘this sort of democracy is to other democracies what tyranny is to other forms of monarchy.’ [26] It was Giambattista Vico who systematized this cycle of democracy and tyranny, the eternal return of despotism, when (a few years before the entry on ‘the people’ in the Encyclopédie) he summarized Aristotle in The New Science:
At first, people desire to throw off oppression and seek equality: witness the plebeians living in aristocracies, which eventually become democracies. Next, they strive to surpass their peers: witness the plebeians in democracies which are corrupted and become oligarchies. Finally, they seek to place themselves above the laws: witness the anarchy of uncontrolled democracies. These are in fact the worst form of tyranny, since there are as many tyrants as there are bold and dissolute persons in the cities. At this point, the plebeians become aware of their ills and as a remedy seek to save themselves under a monarchy. [27]
This thesis contains a covert implication: at bottom, democracy always harbours the seeds of a future tyranny. The new strategy of the ‘two totalitarianisms’ does not deny that populist aspirations correspond to a genuine desire for democracy; on the contrary, it affirms that they tend towards despotism precisely because of that. In populism (read: the people) is contained the seed of totalitarianism. The analysis of the semantic trajectory of populism clarifies what at first sight seems its insoluble aporia—and appears so to countless political scientists—namely, that there are ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ populisms, ‘reactionary’ and ‘progressive’ populisms, or that one and the same populism can be right-wing in some respects and left-wing in others, reactionary and progressive. In reality, the new semantic domain of populism was constructed precisely in order to connect these opposed categories. Its political utility consists in its making possible the equation of movements seemingly at opposite ends of the political spectrum.


A new oligarchical order

As a measure of where the centre is now said to be situated, we may take the case of the ‘centrist’ Bill Clinton, whose followers were dubbed ‘Rubin Democrats’, after his Treasury Secretary, a former Vice-President of Goldman Sachs and board member of Citigroup; that is, a spokesman for the interests of big finance. That an administration very close to the most powerful bank in the world, to what Roosevelt had called ‘organized money’, should be regarded as ‘centrist’, not to say ‘third way’, is indicative of the intervening political shift. [30] The Rubin Democrats exemplify in graphic fashion some of the long-term trends that have emerged since 1989.

Firstly, social classes have become unmentionable, just like the people. At least at the level of discourse, political proposals are no longer anchored in the material interests of opposed social groups. Naturally, this ‘disinterestedness’ is an imposture: the specific interests of groups and classes are unquestionably pursued, even though they pass unnamed, in the service of the general interest—as, for example, in the goal of ‘restoring the public finances’...


Secondly, ‘negative power’—that is, powers of prevention, surveillance and evaluation—has vastly increased. Nadia Urbinati has cited the ‘pervasive power of the market’ as perhaps the most influential modern negative power, due to ‘its ability to claim the legitimacy to veto political decisions in the name of supposedly neutral and even natural rules’. [32] In recent years, the ‘independent’ central banks and the international financial institutions have significantly extended their exercise of negative power: the IMF, World Bank, WTO and European Central Bank evaluate and interdict national economic policies according to their own ‘expert’ priorities. The assessments of the ratings agencies, which are private entities in law, have a decisive impact on the lives of individual citizens. No Greek, Spaniard or Italian has ever elected the board of directors of Moody’s; yet whether that citizen will receive treatment for a tumour, whether her daughter will be able to go to university, may be determined by their call.

Thirdly, the scope of democratic decision-making has become tightly circumscribed. Most of the government’s economic, fiscal, spending, social security and social policies now elude popular choice; instead, they are shaped and ultimately imposed by the external limits of the ‘negative powers’...


In sum, since the end of the Cold War an oligarchic regime has been consolidated throughout the West, in both the socio-economic and the political sense. The first has been more widely noted, as wealth distribution has become more skewed and veritable monied oligarchies have emerged. [34] In the United States in 2007, 1 per cent of the population owned 35 per cent of total wealth and the next 19 per cent owned 51 per cent, meaning that the top fifth of the population cornered 85 per cent of wealth, while the remaining four-fifths were left with a mere 15 per cent. [35] However, we are also dealing with oligarchy in a formal political sense, because increasingly the elites are not subject to the same legal regime as the rest of the population. One of Italy’s leading jurists has noted that, ‘lurking behind the spectre of populism is the risk of an oligarchical degeneration of constitutional democracy’. [36] Except that the degeneration is no longer a risk, it is a reality.

Already the elites submit to a much laxer tax regime. Warren Buffett (fortune valued at around $50 billion, plus or minus ten depending on stock market fluctuations) once again makes use of his immunity to reveal that he is subject to a rate of income tax less than half that imposed on his secretaries. What for ordinary citizens is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment, has become for the elites a civil misdemeanour, attracting fines. Thus, last December, HSBC agreed to pay a penalty of $1.92 billion for having laundered huge amounts of Mexican drug-dealers’ money—a crime for which the bank’s directors should have been sentenced to long prison terms. After the doctrine of the bank too big to fail, we now have the doctrine of the bank ‘too big to indict’. [37] The regime is thus strictly oligarchical, because there are two laws: one for ordinary citizens, another for the powerful few.

Since the financial crisis there has been an increasing recourse to extra-representative bodies, as in Italy, which was first entrusted to a government of ‘technocrats’ and then to a committee of ‘wise men’. The technocrats’ impatience with the rules of democracy, which is compulsive, emerges in an interview with Monti: ‘Those who govern must not allow themselves to be completely bound by parliamentarians.’ [38] But this restriction is also effected by delegitimizing all criticism as ‘irresponsible’—or ‘populist’, which has become synonymous. In short, the only responsible criticism is the one that does not criticize; the sole objection is the one that is consensual; the only alternative is endorsement.


Here ends the parabola of ‘populism’, at the historical moment when the developed world is advancing into an oligarchical despotism, and the opposition between oligarchs and plebs has returned; when anti-popular policies are imposed just as the word ‘people’ is erased from the political lexicon, and anyone opposed to such policies is accused of ‘populism’. The democlastic frenzy is such that Umberto Eco now accuses even Pericles (495–25 BC) of populism. [42] Yet one reason why more and more movements are coming to be characterized as ‘populist’ is that anti-popular measures are multiplying. You want health care for everyone? You are a populist. You want your pension linked to inflation? But what a bunch of populists! You want your children to go to university, without carrying a life-long burden of debt? I knew you were a populist on the quiet! Thus the oligarchy’s court jesters denounce any popular demand. And even as they void democracy of any content, they accuse anyone opposed to this hollowing out of having ‘authoritarian instincts’, just as the unarmed victims of eviction are accused of being Nazi persecutors.

The inflated use of the term ‘populism’ by the optimates thus reveals a covert anxiety. Just as the adulterous spouse is always the one most suspicious of their own partner, so those who eviscerate democracy are the most inclined to see threats to it everywhere. Hence all the to-do about populism betrays a sense of uneasiness, smacks of overkill. The faintest murmur of dissent is turned into an alarming sign, heralding the ominous rumble of thunder that threatens to erupt into the hushed salons of the powerful, who believe themselves safe, but still anxiously peep out from behind the curtains for any signs that the people may be stirring: ‘Vade retro vulgus!’ Or as they say these days, ‘Get back in line!’
posted by kliuless at 5:23 AM on November 14, 2018

Monopoly vs. the Magic Cape
Wu is clear from the onset about the limits of antitrust as a cure all for economic inequality. In the book’s introduction he concedes, “It is true that antitrust alone will not cure the curse of bigness or eliminate the excesses of private power.” “But,” he likewise suggests, “it strikes at the root, and getting the engines of law restarted is an important part of dealing with a problem that has reached Constitutional dimensions.” “Constitutional dimensions” is Wu’s legal-jargon way of saying that the threat posed by excessive private power is a direct affront to the freedoms the Founders hoped to enshrine. Indeed, in the book’s first chapter, as well as the conclusion’s final paragraphs, Wu invokes the American revolution as “being defined by resistance to centralized power and monopoly,” suggesting that: “The original Boston Tea Party was, after all, really an anti-monopoly protest.” Which, to an extent, is somewhat true, but not a definitive picture. As Cornell legal scholar Aziz Rana and others have put forth, while the American Revolution sought economic independence from the Crown for some (a slaveholding elite with hopes of western expansion against the wishes of the Mother country and the native peoples who lived on those lands) it was hardly an uprising against monopoly on behalf of the common people, many of whom (such as slaves, native people, women, and non-property owners) were excluded in many ways, if not totally, from the “democratic” power structures the Founders framed a government to uphold.

Highlighting the American Revolution as a type of origin story for America’s “anti-monopoly” history obscures a different, more radical movement which was far more influential on the anti-monopoly tradition celebrated in The Curse of Bigness. In the middle clause of a sentence praising Justice John Marshall Harlan’s trust busting bonafides, Wu references “the agrarian and populist spirit behind the Sherman Act’s creation.” This is the only mention of the Populist social movement and political party — later termed the People’s Party — which Rana’s 2011 book, The Two Faces of American Freedom, along with others like Lawrence Goodwyn’s 1978 The Populist Moment, helped to chronicle. While the movement of white Southern farmers who cooperated politically with black interests never realized its vision and ultimately splintered after racist pushback from the at-the-time very racist Democratic party as well as over internal divisions, the “agrarian revolt,” as Goodwyn put it, directly confronted the trusts of the day, notably banks and railroads. The Populists called for the breaking up of monopolies among other demands — like cooperative banks, ballot initiatives, the direct election of senators — that would further economic and political democracy. The Populist movement, as The Nation would later note, ultimately shaped the course of history from the Progressive era onwards. Where the American Revolt against the British Crown sought to preserve elite democracy from the top-down, the Populist movement, at its best, aimed to take power from the bottom-up. And, more to the point, the populist movement was responsible for encouraging the passage of the Sherman Act, the law on which Wu’s history of enforcement rests.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2018

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