TWX + AOL; NBC next?

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Jan 11 08:45:57 PST 2000

I have not studied anti-trust law as you have, but when I look at the bottomline of its history since the beginning of the 20th Century, I find it hard to conclude that it is more than leftover window dressing from when capitalism entered its monopoly phase. When the J. P. Morgan crowd got going , evidently there was a lot of explicit voter enthusiasm for curbing the big trusts.

I saw a History Channel show on the year 1900 recently which indicated that William Jennings Bryant actually explicitly attacked McKinley in the presidential campaign as an "imperialist" ( for the war on the Phillipines and invasion of China) and then as a tool of the trusts and big business ! And I think Theodore Roosevelt was known as a "trustbuster" too ( all kidding aside, ha, ha). And I believe this is the era when the anti-trust statutes, SEC etc. were established. But , of course, it seems ludicrous to act as if the trusts and monopolies did anything but grow bigger and bigger for the next 100 years. So, could those laws be anything but fake ? And monopolization has been less and less of a campaign issue over that time. Voters have pretty much been diverted from any concern about big businesses or monopolies or trusts; or the hope of doing anything but submitting to their infinite growth and control of our lives. Politicians and elected officials don't even bother with!

phony anti-trust or anti-big business rhetoric anymore. There is explicit total capitulation to these "things" , corporations.

I suppose there may be some carping (not by you )about a "monopoly" as "one" company in "one industry" , and so conglomeration is not really trusting or monopolization, or the auto industry is not "monopolized" because there are 5 companies, I don't know. But I feel like I am involved in a sort of absurd world to even think about the U.S. government as "anti" trust. ( Although I completely understand your work in the area for bread winning; hey, we all have to get work) . The U.S. government is so pro monopolies , it isn't funny.

Corporations are such enormous Frankenstein monsters growing more and more. Is the growth exponential yet ? The corporations are so much more powerful than the governments, and increasingly so. Presidents and all government leaders make no pretense of "controlling" corporations. They act nervous that their enthusiasm for capitalism is somehow not energetic enough. The Bill of Rights as a protection of individual rights from dominance of big institution is such an anachronism. Giant corporations dominate and trample on individual freedom so much more than governments today, and yet corporations are individual "persons". That is scarier than any fiction or horror movie ever created. The "aliens" are not coming from outer space. They have come from "within" humanity. "Alienation" is not just psychology but full bodied, actualized monstrosity of human material institutions. We are living in a total Twilight Zone/Matrix. Futuristic movies and fictions ( Matrix or _1984_) , wh! ich place the loss of individual freedom in the future are a disservice because they cause us to look past the fact that that future is already here in the present.

I know you know all this.


>>> "Nathan Newman" <nathan.newman at> 01/10/00 05:12PM >>>

> Isn't anti-trust law pretty much of a phony/figleaf type of thing ?

Without going to theories of antitrust enforcement - and hell that is major area for legal realism since any "theory" is pretty much ideological debate - antitrust is one of the few areas where the law gets into actual discussions of corporate governance and popular control. Because practically everything else in corporate law happens in Delaware, antitrust is about the only place in the law where issues of corporate governance and non-shareholder interests in mergers gets any role.

It's a pathetic foothold for those issues, since lefties end up mouthing all this pro-market rhetoric to use it, but the ideological assault on antitrust has gone hand-in-hand with the assault on all kinds of corporate regulation.

One of the reasons I spent so much time working on the Microsoft issue -- aside from the desire to eat at the time -- was that all the legal arguments for antitrust enforcement were the same arguments implying the need for general social regulation of cybertechnology against the pure libertarian position that is so popular.

In many ways in telecom we've had the worst of all worlds in regards to antitrust-- we had the Reagan White House sign off on breaking up AT&T, which was a political maneuver to end regulation of phone service, even as the replacement companies have merged and plundered public assets with little public regulation. The result has been soaring rates for basic service and little or no expansion of the quality of service for most phone users. Despite the promises of high bandwidth service, it has been deployed in remarkably few areas largely because the regulatory structure has encouraging cream-skimming of the richest customers with little way for common carriers to recoup long-term investments for lower income users.

The end result is that the only way to get such broadband service is if we end up with a giant monstrosity like AOL-TimeWarner which through monopoly control on content can recoup its investments-- the sad ideological result of all this pro-business regulation and merger.

-- Nathan Newman

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