Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics (Wired)

The possibility of a global pandemic will reveal our inability to make and distribute the things people need—just in time for a presidential election.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump dismissed concerns about Covid-19. As he put it, the virus is “under control” in the US and the “whole situation will start working out.” But according to Politico, Trump is privately voicing worries that the impact of the virus will undermine his chances of reelection. His panicked actions of late—including preventing an American from being treated in Alabama, at the request of a fearful Senator Richard Shelby—confirm that this virus is a political event of the first magnitude. While few in Washington have internalized it, the coronavirus is the biggest story in the world and is soon going to smash into our electoral politics in unpredictable ways.

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The Market Won’t Fix our China Problem (The American Mind)

Replying to Marco Rubio’s “American Industrial Policy and the Rise of China” in The American Mind

Libertarianism is a bizarre and crumbling ideology that assumes power is absent from economic relationships. Two symbols of its fall are the rise of telecom maker Huawei, as well as the election of Donald Trump. Huawei reveals that being able to build real things matters more than financial markets, and Trump’s election revealed Americans didn’t like libertarianism and its technocratic and progressive analogues.

The World in Time: Lapham’s Quarterly

Lewis H. Lapham speaks with Matt Stoller, author of Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.

“There are many arguments for what is at the root cause of our current social dysfunction,” journalist Matt Stoller writes at the beginning of his book Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy. “Various explanations include the prevalence of racism, automation, the rise of China, inadequate education or training, the spread of the internet, Donald Trump, the collapse of political norms, or globalization. Many of these explanations have merit. But there’s another much simpler explanation of what is going on. Our systems are operating the way that they were designed to. In the 1970s, we decided as a society that it would be a good idea to allow private financiers and monopolists to organize our world. As a result, what is around us is a matrix of monopolies, controlling our lives and manipulating our communities and our politics. This is not just happenstance. It was created. The constructs shaping our world were formed as ideas, put into law, and now they are our economic and social reality. Our reality is formed not just of monopolized supply chains and brands, but an entire language that precludes us from even noticing, from discussing the concentrated power all around us.”

Stoller discusses the backstory and history of this idea on this episode of The World in Time.

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American workers are bored and disillusioned. Here’s what may bring them back

In Silicon Valley, Elizabeth Warren — who is running on a platform that includes breaking up Google — is getting more employees at Google to donate to her campaign than any other Democratic presidential candidate.

Google is renowned for its luxurious treatment of its engineers, with Business Insider running a story focused entirely on pictures of the free food the corporation offers to employees, including “Banana cheesecake, lobster for lunch, poké bowls.” It’s a famously idealistic company; people work at Google to make the world a better place. So the donations to Warren seem like a paradox, if you think about Google as a company where all employees and executives are aligned around the same goals of organizing the world’s information.

But something has gone wrong in paradise, the utopian idealism of the corporation is now being strangled by the monopoly power wielded by its executives.

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Tech Companies Are Destroying Democracy and the Free Press (NYT)

Ad revenue that used to support journalism is now captured by Google and Facebook, and some of that money supports and spreads fake news. (New York Times)

As the presidential election approaches, the cracks in the digital facade are once again showing.

Facebook just removed an “I Love America” page, run by Ukrainians, which pushed recycled pro-Trump imagery from the Internet Research Agency, the Russian group that tried to influence the 2016 electionAs it turned out, “I Love America” wasn’t state sponsored — the Ukrainians were just running the page for the advertising money. A similar page with falsified content, “Police Lives Matter,” is now run out of Kosovo.

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Corporate America’s Second War With the Rule of Law (Wired)

Uber, Facebook, and Google are increasingly behaving like the law-flouting financial empires of the 1920s. We know how that turned out. (Wired)

Last month, after a fierce lobbying battle, California passed a law that will likely end up mandating that companies in the “gig economy,” such as Uber, treat gig workers as employees. After losing the battle to carve out an exception for Uber drivers, Uber’s general counsel, former Obama official Tony West, announced the company simply did not believe the law applied to it. Disrespect toward law is not a surprise at Uber. From the very beginning, leaders there have often seen laws as something to be tested, not followed; at one point in 2017, the company was under five separate criminal investigations.

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Why U.S. Businesses Want Trustbusting (WSJ)

The loudest complaints against today’s monopolies come not from Occupy Wall Street types but from leaders of firms seeking freedom of commerce (Wall Street Journal)

Trustbusting is back, and it’s a bipartisan effort. Last month, 50 state attorneys general, led by the conservative Republican Ken Paxton of Texas, announced an investigation of Google for anticompetitive conduct. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has been a fierce critic of big tech, as has the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, which is probing the sector. Several Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to address the problem of concentrated power not just in tech but in agriculture, defense and media too.

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