Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Monopoly: Root Of All Evil

The Monopoly game originally had an anti-monopoly, pro-cooperation (not corporation, COOPeration!) version. Somebody should revive it, along with the understanding of the game as a warning of horrific evils, not just arcane Wall Street issues, and not just an opportunity to inculcate greed or generate fun family arguments.

“Horrific evils”? Can I be serious? I’m afraid so. Pick up a copy of Thom Hartmann’s The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream. The United States has a lower life expectancy, higher suicide rate, greater gun violence, less safe workplaces, fewer hospitals, greater lack of healthcare, greater debt, less education, more corrupt politics, more limited and propagandistic media, lower wages, fewer rights in the workplace, more environmental destruction, greater poverty, and 40% of the people in one of the wealthiest nations on earth struggling just to survive because of monopoly — not the game, but the fascistic economic practice. “Environmental destruction” is a rather big item in that list, because it threatens human survival. Yes, “fascistic” — more on that below.

The average U.S. family pays a $5,000 annual monopoly tax. That is the extra amount of money that basic services cost as compared with what they cost in similar nations that don’t allow the same concentration of corporate power. Internet costs more. Medicines cost more. Energy costs more. Water costs more. And the corporations that impose these higher fees control the government that allows them to do so, that allows them to pay no taxes, and that allows them to dominate major media and education so that people don’t quite catch on to what’s happening. The monopoly tax is above and beyond the basic lack of public services, the need to pay for college, the need to pay for healthcare, the need to save for retirement, etc., in other words the minimal return on actual taxes.

One of the most firmly planted myths in U.S. “history” is that the Boston Tea Party was a revolt against Big-Guvment Socialistic Taxes. Hartmann explains that a larger factor than resentment of taxes was resentment of tax cuts for the world’s largest corporation, the British East India Company, which was given a monopoly over much of the trade by the colonies. This corporation’s stock was largely owned by the British royal family and top officials. It lobbied Parliament to ban the manufacture of many products in the colonies (such as clothing — which is why there were Gandhian campaigns to manufacture clothing before the U.S. revolution was perverted into violence, and long before Gandhi came around — see Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, by Gene Sharp and David Toscano). Only this one corporation could sell tea wholesale in the colonies. In 1773, the British East India Company, breaking ground for Amazon and ExxonMobil, was given a larger monopoly and the right to pay no taxes on tea sold in the colonies. Smaller tea dealers went the way of Wal-Mart towns. This created the rage that led to dumping the tea into Boston Harbor — a mass-organized Occupyesque open-mic small-d democratic campaign not controlled by Sam Adams or any other leader — see Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael.

Hartmann’s hero, my slave-owning imperialist genocidal neighbor, Tom Jefferson had a decent understanding of the dangers. Restrictions on monopolies was the one thing he wanted in the Bill of Rights that didn’t make it in there. Mickey Mouse has had a more mickeymousian understanding, and copyrights have been stretched and stretched to suit him and Disney. In 1790 copyrights were 14 years, with a possible 14-year renewal if an actual homo sapiens responsible for the creation was still alive. These numbers were doubled in 1831 and 1909 to 28 plus 28. In 1984, before Mickey could expire, Congress upped it to a creator’s lifetime plus 50 and allowing non-human corporations to renew copyrights for 75 years. In 1998 Congress made corporate owned copyrights 95 years from first publication or 120 from creation. Mickey now has until 2023, and Hartmann predicts a new law will soon extend that.

States used to put corporations out of our misery if they didn’t behave ethically and responsibly, as well as if they stifled competition. In the 1880s, when Ohio threated to end Standard Oil Trust of Ohio (that is, bust it up and sell it off — a notion that sounds crazy to Fox News viewers but is not actually as crazy as anything Jeff Bezos will be allowed to do today), Rockefeller gathered up his toys and moved them to New Jersey which obligingly allowed unlimited corporate size and lifetime and the possibility for corporations to own stock in other corporations. Standard Oil of New Jersey went on to fund and arm Nazis and beautify the Gulf of Mexico. Delaware (the traditional name of Joe Bidenville) soon surpassed New Jersey in corporate lawlessness and now dominates the other 49 states as headquarters of destructive enterprises, but the other states evolved as well — all 50 of them giving corporations unlimited lifespans, unlimited size, and general immunity from public oversight.

FDR made speeches that could be swapped out for Bernie Sanders speeches, with only the numbers less severe, about the concentration of wealth and power. Only, FDR called the problem “fascism,” a “cartel system,” and “European style” governance, even while allowing too-big-to-fail corporations to dominate U.S. policies and fund U.S. enemies. The Harding-Coolidge-Hoover years had pushed “deregulation,” small guvmint, and a Great Depression. But the big leap forward for the jack-booted job-creators came with the election of Ronald Reagan. Dreams of shrinking work hours, and of income keeping pace with productivity evaporated as anti-trust laws were abandoned and top tax rates were slashed and (not even Hartmann will mention this but) government wasn’t shrunk, it was militarized; the money was moved from non-military to military spending.

This is my one complaint, not with Hartmann’s book, but with the entire culture of the United States. The size of the government has not been shrinking. Yet we get wonderfully well-informed books telling us it has been, because all the things we’re told cost money have been shrinking. Yet that one item that makes up OVER HALF of federal discretionary spending has been swallowing up all the money taken out of everything else. If there are any benefits to a smaller government, pure and simple, we wouldn’t know it; we haven’t tried it. If there are any benefits to prolonging the endless misguided debate between big and small government, they must all be benefits to the weapons dealers, because I haven’t seen them.

Hartmann distinguishes bad monopolies from “natural” ones. He doesn’t want a government-made car, but does think houses with only one power line and water line and sewer line should have those monopolies controlled by the government, because it tends to do a better job than private corporations. The same is true for healthcare, of course. And handing these “natural” monopolies over to corporations creates so much abuse that the government then has to fund regulatory agencies to oversee the criminals it has empowered.

Hartmann wants to re-criminalize bribery, separate cable from phone from internet, recreate public responsibilities for mass media, bring back the corporate death penalty, regulate Facebook, ban the preemption of local laws by states and of state laws by the feds, overturn Taft-Hartley, and uphold the right to organize.

But what about the domination of government by the mega-weapons dealers who suck down the bulk of the corporate welfare yet receive minimal attention? Are they a natural or unnatural monopoly? For those of us who see no justification for their existence at all, I suppose “unnatural” is the obvious choice. For those who support military spending within some sort of limits, there still does not seem to be any analogy to a single water or sewer line. Missiles and napalm and cluster bombs can arrive from all points on the compass simultaneously. If banks and search engines and pharmaceutical companies need busting up, what possible excuse is there for the current existence of Lockheed-Martin?


David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Help support,, and by clicking here:


Sign up for these emails at


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: Trump Plays Both Sides Against The Middle

Is he a hawk? Is he a peacenik? The President keeps us guessing . By Reese Erlich President Donald Trump has convinced Republican isolationists and hawks that he supports their views. That’s a neat trick, since the two groups hold opposing positions. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Waiting For The Old Bailey: Julian Assange And Britain’s Judicial Establishment

On September 7, Julian Assange will be facing another round of gruelling extradition proceedings, in the Old Bailey, part of a process that has become a form of gradual state-sanctioned torture. The US Department of Justice hungers for their man. The More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Sorry Plight Of The International Education Sector

Tourism and international education have been two of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re both key export industries. Yet the government response to them has been strikingly different. There has been nothing beyond a few words of ministerial condolence and a $51.6 million package (details below) to get the sector through the pandemic...

Binoy Kampmark: Google’s Open Letter: Fighting Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code

Tech giants tend to cast thin veils over threats regarding government regulations. They are also particularly concerned by those more public spirited ones, the sort supposedly made for the broader interest. Google has given us an example of this ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-Election

By now it seems clear that National have no fresh ideas to offer for how New Zealand could avoid the Covid-19 economic crisis. As in the past, National has set an arbitrary 30% ratio of government debt to GDP that it aims to achieve “in a decade or so,” ... More>>

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>