Corporate monopolies such as Facebook and Amazon: A threat to American Democracy?

american democracy

It has been a general belief that an oppressive, centralized federal government would strangle political and economic liberty. Instead, in the contemporary world, private institutions of massive proportions effectively distort political discourse. This impacts every citizen, free or oppressed. This unchecked crisis has manifested itself due to the dominance of private enterprises over the key sectors of American economy, which mitigates competition, contracts opportunities and consequently, corrupts representative democracy by influencing public opinion.

The essence of a truly American democracy will be realized when economic power and prosperity are more evenly distributed, as was the case in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The corporate environment was largely characterized by issues such as fair wages, proportionate executive compensation, equitable taxation, hard bargaining between businesses and unions, a secure retirement and curbs on corporate power and size. This resulted in more opportunities and less income inequality. By the end of the 1970s, global competition grew, leading to a ‘liberation’ from social sentiment towards a higher GDP, deregulation creeped into the economy. Unions were hijacked and benefits were reduced, gradually eroding the belief of shared prosperity. Automation further wiped out the need for high-paying, labor intensive jobs.

Over time, huge corporations became both, an economic and political problem. Corporations began to act as “people” with the right to spend money to influence public policy, thereby undermining the spirit of the American Democracy.

It is widely alleged that like other politico-economic monopolies, Facebook has leveraged its political power to delay and stall investigation and regulation. While companies like Amazon make billions while paying minimum wages to its blue-collar employees.

The corporate inclination towards satiating shareholders leads to economic, political and societal dysfunction. Therefore, it is essential for the government to ensure genuine democracy by curbing corporate power and restoring competition, thereby facilitating prosperity and redressing the imbalance between workers and employees. It would require reforming corporate behavior to benefit the society at large. Financial institutions must be regulated to prevent predatory policies, while corporate boards must include employee representatives, account for the social and environmental impact of their decisions and limit excessive top-level compensation.

For the free market to work, the monopoly of corporate behemoths such as Facebook and Amazon must be broken to usher in a truly free, American Democracy that promotes equality and opportunity. No society prospers, politically or socially, when most of its people are kept away from economic liberty and equitable distribution of wealth.

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