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Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Populism

por Matt Stoller

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1084203,256 (4.03)2
"A startling look at how concentrated financial power and consumerism transformed American politics, resulting in the emergence of populism and authoritarianism, the fall of the Democratic Party--while also providing the steps needed to create a new democracy"--
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This is a tricky book for me to review, as I fundamentally agree with Stoller about the evil of corporate monopolies, but his historical interpretation does not sit well with me.

Stoller chooses to interpret anti-monopolism as an oversimplified battle between populists and elitists. In his telling, elitists, on the left as well as the right, are the enemy. He contrasts antimonopolists with planners, with elitists. And this leads him to gloss over those aspects of populism which are not in keeping with his telling, to idealize the New Deal era and the 1950s. He paints a glossy picture of Jeffersonian democracy, of small business and family farms. The heroes are plucky New Dealers and fans of Roosevelt and Brandeis; the enemies are not just right wingers, but establishment figures like Richard Hofstadter and John Kenneth Galbraith. I'm familiar with Hofstadter's writings, and I don't think Stoller represents them completely fairly. Stoller's telling often lacks complexity--the ways in which both populism and elitist technocracy can be a double edged sword.

There's a lot I enjoyed--there's a clear historical case that antimonopoly action is effective and that the US government has retreated from its duty. But Stoller doesn't do the best job of placing it in historical perspective. ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
A bit like watching a slow-motion accident between two nuclear freighters that in turn blows up an entire city ( )
  JeremyBrashaw | May 30, 2021 |
How the progressive case against monopoly was eliminated from liberal politics. It wasn’t corruption in the conventional sense, but rather ideological constraints such that technocrats thought they had to reward bigness and neglect unions and small businesses in order for the polity as a whole to grow. Stoller describes it as “a joint attack on populism by the left and the right by people who, for their own reasons, distrusted the messiness and vibrancy of democracy.” Even bipartisan consensus on the brilliance of Hamilton reflected this embrace of rule by elite technocrats. “The bailouts from 2008 to 2010 were not intended to stop a depression, they were intended to stop a New Deal. And so they did.” Stoller is now, unsurprisingly, writing about monopolies in the present day—his newsletter is quite illuminating. ( )
  rivkat | Mar 22, 2020 |
The Introduction to Goliath does a masterful job of framing the scope of this book by focusing on the ouster of US Congressman Wright Patman as the chair of the US House Banking and Currency Committee in early 1975. Following the Democratic wave election of 1974 (that of the so called "Watergate Babies"), all US Congressional committees were overhauled with many younger members whom pushed the older members out of leadership positions. Stoller frames the book around Patman because his loss of the Banking and Currency Committee chair allowed more banks and large corporations with concentrated financial power to have more sway in the US House which ultimately lead to the decline in antitrust enforcement in the United States.

The book traces the history of antitrust as it was initially developed, incorporated within the New Deal, and slowly chipped at over time with the backing of research from the Chicago school of economics. This is a long, detailed history and it can be quite dense and difficult to follow at times. However, persistence of the reader is rewarded with a thorough understanding of antitrust history especially with regards as how we got to our present economic state of banks and other large companies that are deemed "too big to fail". My major gripe with this book is that it often reads like a supplementary text, with many terms and concepts from basic economics the reader is expected to be familiar with and are not provided or fully explained. However, if you are frustrated as to why it appears that companies such as Disney seem to own everything, reading this book helps to understand how the American people enabled this all to happen. ( )
  pbirch01 | Nov 14, 2019 |
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"A startling look at how concentrated financial power and consumerism transformed American politics, resulting in the emergence of populism and authoritarianism, the fall of the Democratic Party--while also providing the steps needed to create a new democracy"--

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