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terça-feira, fevereiro 14, 2006

Wake up to old-fashioned power of new oligopolies

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Comment - Wake up to old-fashioned power of new oligopolies: "The increasing power of a few leading trade-oriented companies over entire production and supply systems results in a variety of economic and political ills. One is the degradation of many production systems themselves. That is what happens when the actual producers of goods or components are unable to capture a sufficient share of revenue to support innovation, or sometimes even to maintain existing machinery and workforces. Another is the heightening of competition within society as opposed to between leading companies. In a production system marked by extreme outsourcing, oligopoly does not result in the end of competition so much as the redirection of competition downwards, as lead companies capture more power to set supplier against supplier, community against community and worker against worker.

It is here we find at least a partial explanation for one of the more confusing paradoxes of today’s global system – the simultaneous rise in consolidation and competition. So far, especially in America, the tendency has been to blame extreme competition on “globalisation”, not least because faulting foreigners for domestic ills can be a good way to sell books and win votes. The real explanation, however, is not only globalisation, or even mainly globalisation, as much as radical changesin the structure of industry. In other words, it is not the Chinese who destroy US and European jobs, but roll up by the world’s largest traders and retailers of the power to pit producer against producer, and to capture most or all of the gain from the arbitrage.

Outright monopoly is absolutely defensible – when granted temporarily to reward companies for bringing truly new ideas to market. But most of today’s powerful companies are not the result of new ideas, only the strategic reordering of markets. If anything, their goal is the oldest one in commerce – to fence in the place where deals are done, and to tax producers and consumers for the right to meet there. It will not be long until we realise that to save our free market system will require, among other actions, far more aggressive enforcement of antitrust. Simply stopping any further roll out of power will not be enough. True believers in the free market will admit there is no other choice than to roll the power back.




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