Turning off that "Giant Sucking Sound" with Sally Hubbard
Gregory Bateson, the late English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, and cyberneticist, once defined information as "a difference that makes a difference." If enough Americans had the inclination of mind to ponder the plethora of valuable information presented by Sally Hubbard in her new book Monopolies Suck, and acted on it as citizens, her book would be an informational blockbuster in terms of the difference it could make in how the American economy is organized. The information Hubbard skillfully showcases about the far reaching harm monopolization causes in American society has the potential to rouse Abraham Lincoln's all important "public sentiment," the collective energy that Ralph Nader calls "the ignition switch for change. "
Hubbard is Director of Enforcement Strategy at Open Markets Institute, an organization focused on solutions to the problems of monopolization and she speaks truth to power with an inspirational zeal that dramatically clarifies the often confusing issues that arise when power is concentrated in the hands of the few, enabling corporate monopolies to suck the collective wealth of We the People into the coffers of the uber rich .1% of the population. Understanding how the American kleptocracy works is essential to the daunting task of dismantling it and Hubbard's book succeeds in exposing the nation's many dysfunctional relationships with reality that stem from corporate control of society. In addressing the major issues that threaten to extinguish what's left of America's weakened democracy, I think the book fulfills her hope that it will convince readers that "attempts to make people's lives better will fail unless we deconstruct power and stop monopolistic extraction of wealth from us all."
Hubbard documents the impact monopolization inflicts on the core social arrangements crucial to civic life in a democratic society. She takes an in depth look at the economy, the healthcare system, the state of the environment, agriculture policies and practices, and the sinister machinations of the Internet surveillance network now in place tracking everything that moves in our corrupted republic. "When
we let big corporations rule the world instead of people," writes Hubbard, "short-term thinking fixated on maximizing profits for the next quarter determines what is possible and what is not."
The irony is, that in addition to courting ecological disaster, short-term corporate thinking doesn't make sense economically. "From 2017 to 2019," she writes, "climate disaster events across the United States cost more than $460 billion. Citibank puts the cost of climate inaction at $44 trillion by 2060, while estimating the cost of investing in renewables as lower than the costs of continuing on the current path. Even most of the monopolies in this book see the climate crisis as bad for business. A 2019 report shows that major corporations expect the climate crisis to cost them $1 trillion over the next five years, while estimating opportunities to address climate change could bring in more than $2 trillion."
Monopolies Suck focuses on the legal structures that inhibit renewable energy solutions from flourishing and outlines numerous strategies for loosening the grip of corporate control bolstered by the author's belief that We the People are the only ones who can confront the menace of concentrated corporate oppression and fix what she calls "our monopoly mess." "Our problems are systemic, and we must attack them on a structural level," she writes, an approach that makes her book a valuable tool for organizers and activists in the hard work ahead, a sort of operating manual to study and contemplate, right up there on the essential book shelf with Ralph Nader's Breaking Through Power. What's apparent right away in Hubbard's prose style, as well as in her lively media appearances, is her fighting spirit and bold stance as a woman who serves truth and justice rather than money and power. I think these aspects of her character are what make her writing so compelling. As Hubbard states the case, her book "is all about how concentrated power is ruining our lives. Nowhere is that clearer than in the threat to humanity posed by the climate crisis. Monopolized America is unsustainable, and concentrated power most literally will be the end of us unless we act now to break it down and redistribute it. A transition to renewable energy sources would do exactly this."
Hubbard isn't afraid to use fighting words to call citizens to action and she clearly defines the order of battle in the struggle ahead. "We must hold our elected representatives accountable to the people instead of corporate overlords," she emphasizes. "Shared economic prosperity and monopoly are incompatible, and we must join together to fight for the most just and equitable future we deserve . . . Now is the time to take action, because truthfully, so much is at stake that we don't have a choice. If we let a few powerful companies control each sector of our economy, the American dream, democracy, liberty, opportunity, and equality--and worse, the future of humanity itself--are in danger. Now is our chance to build a world that's resilient, sustainable, and just, with shared power and prosperity."
* The title is a play on Ross Perot's quip referring to the passage of NAFTA, the free-trade agreement he opposed that accelerated corporate control of American society and intensified the class war started by the Republican party in 1971.