‘Buy land – they aren’t making it any more,’ quipped Mark Twain. It’s a maxim that would certainly serve you well in a game of Monopoly, the bestselling board game that has taught generations of children to buy up property, stack it with hotels, and charge fellow players sky-high rents for the privilege of accidentally landing there.
Groups against a two-tiered Internet are rallying to beat back FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s plan to end Net Neutrality, which will affect users’ ability to access thousands of websites. They are mobilizing with support from activists for a two-day “Break The Internet” effort to temporarily shut down websites and flood Congress with phone calls and messages. They hope to convince Congress not to allow the FCC to vote for the internet to be handed over to a handful of telecoms.
One faint sound you can hear emanating from the imploding Trump White House is the whispering of senior adviser Steve Bannon in the ear of his embattled boss: Go left, old man, go left.
Planned obsolescence has long been a consumer expense and irritation. Now brand-name profiteers are pushing a new abuse: Repair prevention. This treacherous corporate scheme does more than gouge buyers on the original purchase. Using both legal ruses and digital lockdowns, major manufacturers are quietly attempting to outlaw the natural instinct of us humanoids to fiddle with and improve the material things we own in order to charge us to fix it. Indeed, the absurdity and arrogance of their overreach is even more basic: They're out to corporatize the very idea of "owning."
The United States stands out among wealthy countries in that we give drug companies patent monopolies on drugs that are essential for people’s health or lives and then allow them to charge whatever they want. Every other wealthy country has some system of price controls or negotiated prices where the government limits the extent to which drug companies can exploit the monopoly it has given them. The result is that we pay roughly twice as much for our drugs as the average for other wealthy countries. This additional cost is not associated with better care; we are just paying more for the same drugs.
The EU is expected to formally charge Google Wednesday with abusing its dominant market position in Europe, taking on the US Internet giant in one of its most high-profile anti-trust cases. Sources close to the case told AFP that EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager will submit the proposal to a European Commission meeting, seeking approval to go ahead after three failed attempts to reach a settlement with Google dating back to 2010.
The US media has been breathlessly reporting the spin about Uber, the new $40 billion dollar car service. This episode by Laura Flanders explores the other side, with Bhairavi Desai, co-founder and Director of the Taxi Workers Alliance.
Even by the anything-goes ethical code of the corporate jungle, Amazon.com’s alpha male, Jeff Bezos, is considered a ruthless predator by businesses that deal with him. As overlord of Amazon, by far the largest online marketer in the world (with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined), Bezos has the monopoly power to stalk, weaken, and even kill off retail competitors—going after such giants as Barnes & Noble and Walmart and draining the lifeblood from hundreds of smaller Main Street shops. He also goes for the throats of both large and small businesses that supply the millions of products his online behemoth sells. They’re lured into Amazon by its unparalleled database of some 200 million customers, but once in, they face unrelenting pressure to lower what they charge Amazon for their products, compelled by the company to give it much better deals than other retailers can extract.
Something wicked has crept into American society, something that many hoped was left back in the dustbins of the 19th century. We’re talking about monopoly, the ogre that screams capitalism run amok. Monopolies, or near-monopolies, as are most common in America, rise up through a lack of competition. When one or a handful of players dominate the marketplace, get ready for higher prices, low-quality products, and crap wages for you and me.
5 Things to Know About How Corporations Block Access to Everything from Miracle Drugs to Science Research
Should a company be able to patent a breast cancer gene? What about a species of soybean? How about a tool for basic scientific research? Or even a patent for acquiring patents (see: Halliburton)?
The setting was ornate, the subject esoteric, but the implications huge.