Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is it time to dust off the law books and break up some monopolies?

That was then.
Matt Stoller thinks so. In a recent naked capitalism post, he argues that Americans can't have nice things because of lazy corporate monopolies.

Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, points out that cell service in the US is worse than in many other countries. So are banking services. In Kenya -- Kenya!! -- banking services are way more modern than they are in the US. People can actually transfer money using text messages. Stoller explains:
...the world’s most innovative mobile payments system (is) called M-Pesa ... a cell phone based cash remittance system based on text messages.  Unlike Chase’s Quickpay system, M-Pesa just works, and works well. You load your SIM card with money at any number of street stalls, telecom stores, beauty shops, or anywhere else someone has decided to set up a Safaricom outlet. Transfers happen via text message, and they cost 0.5 – 4% of the cost of the transaction, which is cost effective for a country where so few people have access to banks. Withdrawals can happen at any Safaricom outlet. If your phone is stolen, that’s ok, the cash is loaded onto your SIM card and you have a unique password.
Why can't we have that here? Stollers says it's because:
American corporate executives are now more focused on financial engineering, which is essentially the extraction of capital from their enterprises and from the public, than they are at selling improved goods and services... Investing in manipulative pricing schemes, lobbying for tax breaks and not investing in good infrastructure is a rational choice for American corporate executives...
That's why your monthly cable bill is projected to rise by $114, to $200, by 2020, Stoller says. He argues that it's time to start busting up giant corporations, the way Teddy Roosevelt did back in the day.

Read the whole thing here.