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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A Return to 1912: The Antitrust Center Will Not Hold

Matt Stoller discusses the current ideological shift in antitrust law, relating it to lax enforcement of antitrust and the resulting radical concentration of corporate power over the last forty years. (Concurrences)

In the crises of the 1930s, one of the great investigations in American history was done by a pugnacious working-class lawyer, Ferdinand Pecora, who embarrassed the lords of Wall Street in 1933 as the lead counsel for the Senate Banking Committee. A few years later, as a judge, Pecora observed why countries all over the world were taking the road to fascism or Communism. “In other lands democratic government has abdicated to dictatorship,” he said, “not because men no longer wished to be free, but because democratic governments become impotent to deal with economic problems.”

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WeWork and Counterfeit Capitalism

WeWork illustrates everything that’s wrong with the economy and with our capitalist system — and shows just how far that system has gone off the rails (Business Insider and my own newsletter BIG)

Today I’m going to continue on this theme, and discuss the increasingly common tendency of capital markets to finance loss-making companies, which is an important trend I call “Counterfeit Capitalism.” The most hilarious example is WeWork, because it’s just such an obvious example of self-dealing couched in New Age management consulting speak. Its CEO, Adam Neumann, was just forced to step down. Both Neumann’s rise, and his fall, have important lessons if we want to correct serious errors in our political economy philosophy as a society.

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The fraught debate about the nature of China

There’s potential for gigantic miscalculation between a rising power and a defensive hegemon (Financial Times)

This is a response by Matt Stoller to Ed Luce of the Financial Times.

Diligent Swampians might recall that in my last Swamp Notes I took up cudgels against those who compare China to Nazi Germany. Though I did not name the person who triggered my note, he requested the right of reply. He is Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Washington-based Open Markets Institute, and author of the forthcoming book, Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.

Here is Matt’s response:

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How Powerful Ideas Can Shape Society: Aaron Director and the Triumph of Nihilism

The rise of giants like Amazon and Facebook proves the long-lasting influence of Director’s approach. His intellectual and political legacy is the transition of legitimacy from democratic institutions as the locus of governing power to private monopolies. (ProMarket, the blog at the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business)

This week is the 15th anniversary of the long and productive life of one of the most important men Americans have never heard of, the political philosopher and economist Aaron Director. Director is the key founder of what is now known as the Chicago School of law and economics, which reshaped the American approach to corporate power and political economy.

I didn’t know Director, but I know his work because of the world in which we live. His handiwork is in the air we breathe, the language we use, and the policies that we consider possible. It is in our markets, our banks, our corporations, the products we can buy and sell, and even the wars we may yet have to fight. So before evaluating his life, let us bow before this truly great man. Great not in a moral sense, but in a raw sense of impact.

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Boeing’s travails show what’s wrong with modern capitalism

Deregulation means a company once run by engineers is now in the thrall of financiers and its stock remains high even as its planes fall from the sky (The Guardian)

The plight of Boeing shows the perils of modern capitalism. The corporation is a wounded giant. Much of its productive capacity has been mothballed following two crashes in six months of the 737 Max, the firm’s flagship product: the result of safety problems Boeing hid from regulators.

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The great breakup of big tech is finally beginning

Google and Facebook are the subject of large antitrust investigations. This is good news for our democracy and a free press (The Guardian)

Last week, state attorneys general, led by Texas and New York, announced investigations into Google and Facebook for possible antitrust violations. This is a big deal. No society has ever centralized control of information as we have in big tech, and this is the first real American strike at the problem. As Scott Galloway frequently notes in his podcast with tech journalist Kara Swisher, the big tech breakup has finally begun.

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