tv Tim Wu The Curse of Bigness CSPAN December 8, 2018 8:06pm-9:17pm EST
youtube channel but also c-span book tv you don't want the person whose phone goes off on live television i have been there. not a fun experience. when we get to the q and a portion please step up to the microphone we highly encourage them and save them into the microphone. we are here today to listen to tim wu with his book "the curse of bigness" and the analysis of the digital age oligopoly. a member of the obama economic council and coined the phrase net neutrality that has few companies have strained the economy and proposes new ways to bring the back to the scale justice brandeis describe the social and economic problems thriving from the - - "the
curse of bigness" now with corporations that are too big to fail becoming an everyday reality we could face that again in here to talk more about it is tim wu. [applause] >>. >> thank you for coming. originally a native of washington dc. that we do have a special guest star today from our congressman thank you for agreeing to do this. i will briefly introduce him the ranking member of the house judiciary antitrust
subcommittee which does has the relevance as cochair of the policy and it is important he is the only member of the house democratic leadership to have taken the no corporate pack money pledge. [applause] as the top democrat to oversee the portfolio and opening in competitive markets holding the trump administration accountable through oversight. prior to his election he was the mayor of providence and in the rhode island house of representatives. so now a couple of opening remarks. thank you so much for doing
this. [applause] >> good afternoon. i am delighted to be here and thanks for the kind introduction. it is a pleasure to be with all of you today for this discussion "the curse of bigness" a powerful and contribution to our understanding of today's oligopoly and how we got here. this could not be better time to. today economic power and opportunity are concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and it is increasing clear our economy is not working for everyone corporations are earning profits that are not invested back into the economy so market power and economic concentration are at historic levels. as competition declines powerful gate cap kate keepers that beyond those unambiguous
signals there is an even more basic problem in addition to higher prices and less family supporting jobs that spread of consolidation fundamentally threatens our political freedom dominant companies have the ability to influence regulatory outcomes in their favor your own - - favor by decreasing the risk of scrutiny and accountability. when this is coupled with weak or ineffective campaign finance rules and opens the floodgates for corporate special interest to spend unlimited amounts of money to corrupt and capture our democracy. this week with face but conduct in the aftermath of the 2016 election in the cambridge analytic scandal is a stark reminder. the concentration of wealth and power has helped to
transform and radicalize electoral politics. "the curse of bigness" represents a profound threat to democracy itself what else can we say about a time we simply accept industry has far greater influence than lawmaking they had mere citizens? this has been cast aside it's not just prescription drug prices but lack of political will not just to pot - - higher prices for everyday goods but the court will - - compensation not just hidden airline fees but the corporate powers with the sea on the airplane without economic or political consequence. "the curse of bigness" isn't just the creeping inefficiency but and then to have economic
and junction with others i have pledged not to take any pack money in my campaign. the same time to be hollowed out. and that antitrust enforcement with that efficiency but it hasn't always been this way. but to prevent that concentration of political power in response to that restriction against the monopoly are among the greatest nuisances. they are sacrifices of the many to the few.
and sacrifice to their own corruptions so one century later senator john sherman described the first antitrust law as the bill of rights with the charter of liberty to serves of all rights and privileges with that concentration of economic power is inherently democratic and inconsistent with our form of government to then respond by passing the commission act. that concentrated wealth and with rising economic concentration and antitrust violations before they threaten democratic institutions. 1937 to go on to serve as united states attorney general
to achieve and remark the solution must be in terms of ideals we want no dictatorship by government or big business then congress enacted the anti- merger act with the american economy so it has been seven years that we restore this democratic ideal as a force of opportunity and inequality so to reinvigorate the only democratically elected branch of government in our system and with the antitrust laws with economic and political power from the
agencies to enforce and develop law and to take steps to correct that most critically what you could be doing today is have real conversations about how we do these lives does not happen without your voice or input or your vote. thank you for being here and doing this important work also politics and prose for having us here today. [applause] >> thank you so much that summarizes many points of my book very well. i do want to start the book by talking about what i am trying to do with it.
on the politic side of things. it is one thing from day to day. but those deeper ideological questions and then to determine how the life lived and one is a perpetual question for american democracy is the question what about private power? the constitution when britain was mainly developed as a check on public power. with a keying out of control
mainly and interest of separation of powers and states. but even back then since the 19h century there has been this question of what to do about the fact companies, corporations, trust that can match or exceed the power or even threatened to overwhelm elected government. and periodically we struggle with this. i don't know if we found a final solution but that we are facing this problem in the manifest form today we are living in the area - - era of
corporate concentration where so many industries of the oligopoly of just a few countries - - companies but then to be powerless to be more powerful than they are. it with our broadband provider and not in a bargaining position and with the healthcare choices are prescription drug companies and then force them to apologize so we are facing this age-old question once
again. i am an optimist they do have the capacity to learn from its own history and learn from its mistakes so to keep in mind a very rich tradition. and i believe that we can make mistakes that could correct them. to be in serious danger and then recommitting to lead and very dangerous directions in particular with the allowance and the tolerance of unregulated concentrated industries. >> when do we face this problem again i will begin by
advance on the idea of capitalism there was something unseemly ugly then to compete to each other and then to be more efficient in its industry so play on the guardians from the republic. and then with social darwinism and survival of the fittest with the idea to be a superior form that great man would rise
above the rest to leave the weekend unfit behind. and with herbert spencer himself to believe there should not be laws to support the poor and then to understand our extermination with remnants of animals. with this belief this was the direction society should go that this is the political ideology and then to be uninvolved in that process the survival of the fittest with a new society.
but that was favored by the social darwinist with the eugenic campaigns actually rockefeller junior himself with the same basic idea. and then to be the most sympathetic reading. [laughter] >> and i suggest that with that enormous concentration of wealth as we suggested that was two reasons that the people is something a little more ground was a progressive movement.
that greatness and then to be so hostile to christianity and that before god and that we have mastered that a belief that they could rule that you know what i mean of the more dangerous ideas of the thirties and the ideas but there was a sense of concentrated power of great man in charge which is an
entirely new destiny. to give the most flattering description and with economic growth these were magnificent kit - - magnificent in their way. and with the more humanitarian but one of them you version of concentrated power was part of the founding ideal the constitution was premised on the idea that any form of power was danger and the economy ruled by just a few men.
in those instances you don't have any accountability but it seems almost impossible to imagine right now this idea america understood as the egalitarian place to have achieved a great deal of equality with its citizens that alex de tocqueville wrote a famous book on the united states that of the novel objects. but none struck me more of the
equality facing adverse conditions. and to be more equal in their viewpoint and that is what characterizes america. it's hard to say that right now but it was important for a long time and obviously they were against it. with a totally different view there were some challenges today that the wealthy and millions and millions of dollars those in human history just like j.p. morgan like one dollar a day sometimes would hire those mercenaries so and
that suggested the american republic fundamentally needed to be about human flourishing and development of character and then he saw a key to this liberties and insecurities. so what we think of as freedom of speech and a certain degree of privacy and freedom from government coercion but he also said we need to understand freedom from private forces. past the point of exhaustion if we cannot accept never know if they will have a job or not that those are not conditions that you foster.
how can you become a person this democracy has as a criticism? i don't joke about this. and what he wanted this to be and what the conditions were. and with that inspiring sensitivity with public forms of oppression in tyrannical government but also private forms of aggression. if you look at those conditions of work for lower paying jobs walmart for instance that talking on the job you can be penalized for
having a conversation. a lot of people are searched as they enter or leave the workplace and that is part of their job like tyson chicken people are denied access to the bathroom and routinely denied bathroom break so they have to suffer or where diapers to work this is not conditions for human flourishing. so brandeis said if you want to be a republic of citizens and meant something by that, in particular believes that the trust movement had a certain humanity but not for
anybody else to be very restricted to a tiny class of people that were very small employers or ran their own businesses. a different kind of control over their lives. so that is brandeis. because he is owed deserving and enormous amount of credit to bring those antitrust laws to life. and with those trust busting. and those antitrust laws with
the response to the public outrage but does anyone who has been a lawyer or from law enforcement know there is no life without enforcement. it takes courage it takes enormous courage and that the threat of ruining your career to bring cases against incredibly powerful defendants. to inherit that it was laissez-faire constitutionally with wall street and those companies may not interfere because they know best. and the first year who filed suit against j.p. morgan so he
had this extraordinary courage and i want to highlight the reason so i just have those strengths and weaknesses and to have a democratic intuition to understand if democrats could stand by and do nothing to be in either socialist or anarchist revolution and he believed or foresaw the 20th century that private concentrated power or economic misery is a dangerous combination to be an extremely dangerous directions and therefore felt he had to be
responsive to do something about private concentrated power that has been lost that i think is a vision that you call that spirit and courage of roosevelt it is the founder of the political of antitrust and ask a fundamental question they are under the law and who is supreme in this country? the people or the corporation and looking back to the legacy is extremely important and
always available to invent excuses for an action. so there is a lot more to the story of antitrust survival. he along with president taft and president wilson every single one of trust broke up most of them. some of them ended up conditioned on other states on at&t for instance and essentially what i'm calling for today as a revitalization of trust busting. so to spend in the last five minutes i suggest already that we are at a time with the same
struggle of concentrated power at the age where we see more likely to find excuses for an action that we live in a time with the facebook exposé were major corporations think they can figure out ways of public oversight they are not promising to do better is not enough. and to disable those laws that are meant to provide accountability to the private sector. it isn't the only industry with telecommunications and
then to become very concentrated one of the most obvious examples is once upon a time the understood wisdom the most competitive sector they could imagine and to start new companies the true spirit of competition and since that time one way or another to allow the accumulation and concentration that very few concentrated companies like google and amazon and to allow this in
particular and which today is the personification that they would say that's a problem and to show every sign and symptom. to buy off the serious competitors likens to green as the greatest example. at this point to complete 73 acquisitions by any of the antitrust agencies and to share in the guilt that there
are strong signs that they display and i saw the interview with mark zuckerberg it is such a big company how can i be expected to know what's going on? so maybe that is a problem. [laughter] but it shows that roosevelt and brandeis were conscious of not only economic problems although there is an argument that may have stifled innovation by political problems where they are so concentrated to have so much money lying around it is a trivial matter why wouldn't you cracks and then the easier it makes sense to invest so
through those efforts and with that target and influence with the 2016 election it is so obvious. and to try to move those election results, we are clearly facing some of the problems. but going back to after world war ii there was a couple i talked to before that said will this be depressing? this might be. [laughter] but right after world war ii when the allies finally defeated the axis powers and how do we stop this from happening again like the
united nations and try to restrict that military and i had gemini but one - - had gemini but to break german industry with those monopolies with consolidating the rise to power and then to extend the power to conquer the world. that we always have to be alive of those economic origins to the dangers of too much concentrated power in its ability through the acts or desires of people to push the
country and in my country and one or another direction. to believe in citizens and control of concentrated power and to become dangerous and subject to the will of the people. we remember what we believe in. thank you very much and i'm pleased to take questions. [applause] >> and the founder of this and i know you mentioned.
>> the founder of american enterprise institute. i'm sorry the american antitrust institute. [laughter] but 20 years ago to say we are headed in the wrong direction. >> c dedicated the book to richard pozen or and i studied under him in chicago and when i created the antitrust institute it specifically was aimed at answering the chicago school which you are opposed to and i am opposed to. so i'm interested how you came to dedicate this book to them. >> so working for pozen or he was the judge that i clerked fo for. i dedicated the book because
more than anything was not afraid and he taught us not to be afraid to go where our thoughts let us. and then where we move the debate. and i learned from that example and without that sort of influence but i obviously disagree what he said about antitrust in the seventies but when things had gone too far but that spirit is essential.
those global monopolies. with those antitrust laws should be more powerful than they have been. concentrated power and to have a weaker and to go the opposite direction. and for that economist and then to subsidize with one of those classic challenges during the monopoly process in other areas and then on a country by country basis they
will be a merger to stop in one country and not others. and then 75 percent. and that last remaining decades and mergers and with budweise budweiser, they proposed a merge to the final company they did merge outside of the united states but you have to imagine that same company may find it easier to agree on things. >> i don't want to make it
sound like it's worse than it is but it is but our history is just filled with exploiting weaker people. the territory that we took it all of that is one problem. second, robert mueller basically is the - - who wrote the constitution and put it together he was interested in his own interest of commerce so we don't have a lot in the constitution to draw attention to this problem. so this is really at the level of the constitution in other words we need a statement about special interest dominating the system. and i don't know if we are capable of that at this point. with a few laws here and there are not doing the trick. one more thing even fdr when
we were in the depression we worked out a deal with the mormons. so what i am saying this is a greater problem than we even realize. >> thank you for the question. even though you have been a downer. [laughter] that one of the points i make in my book is we should start to understand the 1912 election that had that constitutional status into that constitutional theory so with that election to spend some time on the book there was a major trust busting campaign and there were different reactions to it like the socialist candidate had no
problem with the monopoly. he said i like the monopoly like the problems with socialism it will just be ruined by the people. now theodore roosevelt was a complicated figure changed his views at this point and said i'm not into breakups anymore now i'm into the new nationalism i want them all to be regulated monopolies like at&t or saudi arabia's oil company. i want everybody to be nationalization but then on the other side those that are advised by brandeis and taft for antitrust campaigns and
that antitrust forces and decisively the antitrust laws to make it clear so to understand that moment with that constitutional significance to suggest those laws that have never been repealed by democratic means anyways so and to say permanent control but the different vision of the structure of the american economy and that means something. and with law-enforcement, i think we have gone very far to disobey the will of congress coming close to repealing many of the laws and pointing the finger where this comes from
but frankly there is a democracy of the antitrust laws that i don't think it makes sense or to make economic sense to enforce this law but with these decisions i could go on and on but we have a real democracy of antitrust due to the influence which i think with a very narrow economic field that antitrust and what it's all about in a sense through this policy we have reinvented the sovereignty or the laissez-faire that certain things are beyond interference and that is beyond the democratic will. >> so with your focus on facebook i appreciate this
tradition to break up highly concentrated markets but to what extent do the antitrust laws actually respond to what we have around these entities like facebook? do you say those antitrust laws exclusively resolve issues? i think you are heavy financial incentives to maintain those privacy structures that we have and the antitrust laws themselves to answer all of the questions we have the way we want to result - - resolve those market. >> that is a good question. i have not antitrust exclusivist but i have worked with law-enforcement and very capacities and i have come to notice companies respond.
i believe in stronger privacy protections facebook is a repeat offender of the ftc rules but sometimes it's hard for them to actually get the attention or to motivate any change of behavior and then you have to arise at the table to say we will break you into three pieces to get attention. i'm not saying don't take care of all of those problems but we are in the situation that is motivated frankly with at&t the sec was overwhelmed they just didn't care what the fcc thought anymore because the power was so great and if you think about a company like microsoft who had no particular fear of government that changed.
it took an effort but it changed and there is something deeper so that's why talk about making it clear of the rules and i don't think the fines do that new privacy laws might but i don't think it will get at the heart of the sense that bigness is unaccountable. >> with a related question on the notion that antitrust is asked to do too much. one of the reasons we don't have these markets is because of the problem of concentrated market power and concentrated political power so how do we respond to that quick. >> yes. that is my sense if i had one
answer so how do you fix congress. [laughter] dad is obviously much longer but these concentrations of power are part of the root problem because first of all with some political science fewer members of industry you have the easier it is to organize and galvanize. . . . . would probably be the tax code. we had tax reform and it's a natural experiment and the middle class technically should
be the most powerful interest group in the united states. it has the most members, the most income. how do they do? right? so this is what i'm, the problem i'm getting at. if you break up overnight, it's a deep problem in this country about basically the ability, the majority to get things that favor citizens. i think biting concentrate powers is a place to start. thank you. >> i'm not a lawyer, i have two questions. the first one, how do you think the failure or inability to break up microsoft in the 90s led or gave permission structure for where we are today? and second, your local in your area? >> microsoft i have a much more, i think a better microsoft even
better for it, but i have a more positive view of microsoft litigation. i think that it demonstrates some of the effects of having a policeman at the elbow. the effective the microsoft investigation was to break a cycle, microsoft would come to own the platform, whatever the platform was, first, then it was windows. the most popular locations on that platform and then make sure there clones one. after -- and there was sort of straightforward, they were going to do the same thing with the browser, get rid of netscape, explore would come the dominant platform" whatever they were successful in and therefore -- i think that the greatest
beneficiary of the micro soft case where google, amazon, facebook. that's -- they were in some sense, they were an affair competition. when microsoft search got better, google was better. so use google. microsoft, people work there, including my brother for a while. most of the products, when you think about it, they were really biased. using this product as opposed to, whenever one is using, that's a sign of something wrong with it. an economic market. we don't notice you are making choices, you just kind of what you're stuck with. so anyway, i think that was an important case. that was last intersection, the
major big case. a major breakup kind of case. that was 20 years ago now. >> were you from? >> i was born in the district but i grew up near georgetown road. i forgot what stream name. i left there. [laughter] my parents -- >> would use the other process or pathway for unwinding or otherwise controlling the monopolies that developed over the last 20 to 40 years? i think back to the efforts that the ftc made in the 1970s and went after the oil industry and serial industry. it result in the ftc being closed down by congress for several days. more recently, they had a success and going back to a hospital -- completed hospital nurturing. getting it unwound. what you see as the pathway for trying to bring, unwinding this
situation? >> some described in the book, but i'll, the last chapters that i refer to it, i'll get back to it again, there's a number of things. i would probably clarify merger of you. the undoing of some mergers that went too far. i think it's straightforward. you mentioned the ftc in 1970s, brought as a series of industries, that wasn't a successful approach. i think you make progress to examine in the last ten years, which issues we should under. i think he proposed ideas for how you add extra scrutiny to big mergers. i'm not suggesting this was they're down hold downhill battle. the judiciary, after 30 years, even 40 years of appointments, that haven't 40 years of
appointments, having been particularly concerned with antitrust or favor to pro-business judiciary, a major challenge. i think you also have to -- if you have peter judiciary appointments, you need to have some of the judiciary starting to fight these trends as well. everything, big things, a small beginning. that's what i'll say thank you very much. >> my questions don't show my views or opinions but i want to play devil's advocate. a lot of the innovations and product and services that we have today oftentimes in the tech industry have come because of a lighter touch with the view of not being as regulating
organizations, or would you grant the average person's life having become better because of that lighter touch? the republican view that companies should try to be as regular as possible. what would you say within the hipster antitrust movement? do you support? what you see as some of the flaws or problems with that that one should -- >> i wouldn't say -- [laughter] it's not getting anywhere. sometimes columbia school. these are some of the names. i may be different at a fundamental level but i don't take him responsible for google maps. i don't -- the microsoft decision. i think that the -- if you want
to talk about the internet district we all in the numbers debt of gratitude, the telecom boom. it's a mythology and propaganda. false propaganda. they created silicon valley as it exists. only two or three. first of all, massive internet government. research through the internet. through government programs. this is research, the private sector was not doing. would not have done. some people talked about at&t, they thought the internet research was misguided and they were in the wrong direction. the early days of neutrality and people who follow the ftc, for a long time, all of the internet service providers got this great community to being destroyed by
phone company, at&t which around the growth of aol and copy surf, led to a massive internet and the abuse of these companies. on the back of it, an enormous amount of effort and strained anapolis, next to have the antitrust cases against at&t, microsoft and ibm. ibm, was a monopoly of american computing. in the 70s, early 80s, underwent the ferocious attack. people at the time, was criticized for taking up too much time when you look back at it. a personal software industry starts. the software industry gets started, direct result of the lawsuit. the personal computer develops during this period of time. apple developed during this time, microsoft watched.
ibm is terrified, but the possibility of being programmed by the antitrust laws. a soft talked about watching the next generation of silicon valley's. goes through this as, the strength that directly thinks the prosperity of the united states, the golden goose, the tech economy to ice policy. this idea, which you suggested, i think you believe us, were so hands-off and that's why we have a great tech sector. you look at europe and japan, japan never broke up in tt. never challenged its ibm. over the nine -- 90s, they are going to be the united states. then they could never build anything that challenged it. you never got anywhere. i believe that this is a misinformation campaign. the restraints of monopoly, facing competition, it's the
true source of american wealth and well-being. every suggestion to the contrary is a pack of lies. that's my response. [laughter] >> what you think are the greatest flaws? >> i think we haven't gone far enough. we haven't yet fully develope developed -- i think we need to do more research. actually to be more straight, i think we need to do a lot more economic -- we're putting ideas out there but there's a need to fill them out. to do the research to involve macroeconomics, i think -- these are old ideas and i think there's a lot of intuition but they need more economic research and that's what i'd say. >> i could even monopoly in
concentration. i would like to come to the other side of the going? uber. it's saved a lot of opportunity for jobs. for example, overseas. they have a lot of jobs. i would like to see, where does that fit in your -- >> what about uber? is that sickly -- basically. >> the criteria. it creates a lot of jobs. for example, overseas. the criteria that you have the book. >> my ideas on uber are basically the same with any thing. i think that it's important, the idea of calling a taxi was an
important idea. with your phone is important. i'm always in favor of new ideas to think -- she -- think. i also don't think if they come to dominate or even if you have an oligopoly, the antitrust laws because you have access with the phone. i think we need to stay vigilant and understand -- gruber has faced competition. they haven't been able, maybe in some winston, don't know if they tried to fire lyft or not, i want to use uber as a demonstration. i think i'm out of time so -- as a one last thing. a sign of picking on facebook, the sign of facebook of particular unaccountability, comes from when uber start with
these scandals, using lyft or other services, people, there is no where to go. they know where to go and that in a subtle way, shows you something. where was the kind of her, gentler, company bested up and said, i've been waiting for wikipedia for some to come in and say, there's no option. >> i've been following the ftc hearings on consumer protection laws for center. i'm wondering if you feel optimistic but that would have any impact on the right revitalization? and as a citizen, by participating in the commenting
process, you think that would have -- >> yes, i think it does. it suggests that antitrust exits fire to gain the confidence when they have people behind them. when they feel that they are acting against people nobody cares, that's one thing. but when you feel there's the popular will behind you, you've got to act with a certain level of confidence and courage and i think the ftc hearings are great idea. i think it's time for re-examination, top to bottom what's going on. i've been involved in a couple of hearings itself. is fine. i think it's forcing us, a little -- a lot of debate over consumer welfare standards. i think the hearings have started to move us forward and expose, it's easy government to kind of get, government tries to say chopped an error ways of
thinking but you do. i think we approaching these questions, there's almost no downside. so i think it's been good that they are doing that. thank you for your attention and questions. [applause] i think i'm signing books, is that right? >> yes. thank you so much for coming. books are available to register. please be torturous where they are. assigning line will start in front of me. next to the podium. >> you are watching tv. d