Mentions — December 11, 2012, 2:44 pm

Paul Krugman on Barry C. Lynn and the Effect of Monopolies on Labor

“I realized that to move, I’d need the approval of some grand poobah.”

In his column in yesterday’s New York Times, “Robots and Robber Barons,” Paul Krugman looked at two forces that are harming American workers: technology and unregulated monopoly power.

Krugman cites Barry C. Lynn’s work at the New American Foundation in explaining the latter:

What about robber barons? We don’t talk much about monopoly power these days; antitrust enforcement largely collapsed during the Reagan years and has never really recovered. Yet Barry Lynn and Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation argue, persuasively in my view, that increasing business concentration could be an important factor in stagnating demand for labor, as corporations use their growing monopoly power to raise prices without passing the gains on to their employees.

Lynn’s February 2012 cover story, “Killing the Competition,” looked at the effects of monopoly power on workers in the technology, farming, and publishing sectors, as well a number of other industries:

[T]ake the advertising executive who recently told me about her decision to ditch her career and become a teacher. Over the course of a decade, this executive steadily accumulated responsibility as she moved from Wunderman to Omnicom to Young & Rubicam, confident she was destined for a corner office. Then, a couple of years ago, she hit a wall. “Every place I wanted to work was already owned by WPP,” she said, referring to the British giant that controls Y&R and many other firms. “And I realized that to move, I’d need the approval of some grand poobah.”

Again we encounter the familiar story. Well into the 1980s, power on Madison Avenue was dispersed among more than a dozen large agencies and scores of vibrant smaller firms. But over the past thirty years, four sprawling holding companies—WPP, Interpublic, Omnicom, and Publicis—swallowed up almost the entire industry. WPP alone controls more than 300 ad agencies, including such once iconic shops as the Grey Group, Ogilvy & Mather, and Hill & Knowlton. And the four giants vigorously shore up this power with strict non-compete employment contracts.

Share
Single Page

More from Harper’s Magazine:

Weekly Review October 16, 2018, 12:44 am

Weekly Review

Nikki Haley resigns; Jamal Khashoggi murdered; Kanye visits the White House

Podcast October 12, 2018, 2:10 pm

Fall Books and Rachel Kushner

On Lacy M. Johnson’s The Reckonings, Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, and Kristen M. Ghoddsee’s Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism; plus: an interview with the author of The Mars Room

Weekly Review October 10, 2018, 11:45 am

Weekly Review

Kavanaugh is confirmed; Earth’s governments are given 12 years to get climate change under control; Bansky trolls Sotheby’s

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2018

The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Rebirth of a Nation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Rebirth of a Nation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Article
Blood Money·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
Article
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Article
Wrong Object·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

H

e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

Percentage of Aquarians who are Democrats:

47

Scolded dogs look guiltier if they are actually innocent.

Nikki Haley resigns; Jamal Khashoggi murdered; Kanye visits the White House

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today