Chokepoint Capitalism

“A call to action for the creative class and labor movement to rally against the power of Big Tech and Big Media

Corporate concentration has breached the stratosphere, as have corporate profits. An ever-expanding constellation of industries are now monopolies (where sellers have excessive power over buyers) or monopsonies (where buyers hold the whip hand over sellers)—or both.

In Chokepoint Capitalism, scholar Rebecca Giblin and writer and activist Cory Doctorow argue we’re in a new era of “chokepoint capitalism,” with exploitative businesses creating insurmountable barriers to competition that enable them to capture value that should rightfully go to others. All workers are weakened by this, but the problem is especially well-illustrated by the plight of creative workers. From Amazon’s use of digital rights management and bundling to radically change the economics of book publishing, to Google and Facebook’s siphoning away of ad revenues from news media, and the Big Three record labels’ use of inordinately long contracts to up their own margins at the cost of artists, chokepoints are everywhere.

By analyzing book publishing and news, live music and music streaming, screenwriting, radio and more, Giblin and Doctorow deftly show how powerful corporations construct “anti-competitive flywheels” designed to lock in users and suppliers, make their markets hostile to new entrants, and then force workers and suppliers to accept unfairly low prices.”

“Whether it’s pharma, finance, beer, athletic shoes, eyeglasses — every one of these is controlled by a cartel or an oligopoly or an oligopsony. In every circumstance, they’re hurting workers and customers and eroding our ability to make good policy. Because when there’s only three or four companies in a sector and it’s time to regulate them, it’s pretty easy for them to come together and come up with a common position and say, “Look, anything except this would mean the death of our industry.”

We need to figure out how to turn anger about all of these seemingly different issues into one movement. If we can figure out how to get people to recognize that they’re not angry about running shoes or cheerleading or professional wrestling or beer or eyeglasses — what they’re actually angry about is capitalist monopoly, and what they actually want is pluralism — then we have the basis for a mass movement that really can make political change.”