A Big Announcement About BIG
Containing commercial power in a democracy is fundamental to our liberty. That's why I write about it. That's why this newsletter resonates so widely. Here's how you can help us take the next step.
I’ve been writing BIG for a little over two years. In that time, U.S. government agencies have filed five separate antitrust suits against Google, two against Facebook, and one against Amazon. And a lot more is on the way, in sectors far beyond big tech.
Why is this happening? It’s simple. Our society is in crisis, beset with inequality, polarization, financial instability, and political dysfunction. For a long time, it’s been hard to put a finger on just why these problems have gotten so bad. But over the last few years, more and more of us have started to realize that the root cause of all of these seemingly disconnected problems is the consolidation of economic power in the hands of monopolists, protected by a legal and political system.
As we learn more about the laws facilitating these monopolies, our history of struggle and triumph, and the actual mechanisms by which dominant firms operate, the challenge becomes easier to tackle. We also realize that monopolies are everywhere. At BIG, I’m trying to track and expose as much of it as I can, and help connect what you’re seeing and feeling with policymakers.
And it’s working. Policymakers are responding to the anger that the public feels at these unaccountable concentrations of power. They also respond to the stories I write about. Exposing market power and teaching people about it leads directly to better policy and enforcement. Of course it’s easy to be cynical about the possibility of making our society a better place. But the truth is, there are more of us than we realized. I hear it every day, through your emails and comments. You are affecting politicians in D.C. and around the world. And now it’s time to take the next step.
Here’s the announcement. This newsletter is going paid.
To be clear, the regular newsletter which comes out 2-4 times a month will remain free. And much of the new stuff I’ll be adding will eventually become public as well, often with a lag where paid readers will get it first. Here’s why you should subscribe. Yes I’ll be adding a bunch of cool new stuff, but ultimately, the reason is because the truth is worth it. Monopolies are happy to finance propaganda. But if you want honest writing about power, you have to pay for it. It will cost a few dollars, but in the long-run, it is much cheaper to pay for the truth than get lies for free.
If you are one of the many people who have asked me how you can support this work, I really appreciate it. You need read no further. You can subscribe by clicking on this link or the button below. The price is $6/month or $50/year, with the option of choosing a special higher “Founding Member” tier if you can afford it and really love the work. For every Founding Member, I will give away a subscription of BIG to a student or to someone who cannot afford it.
And as a thank you to my early readers, I'm offering a special discount of 10% for the first year. It's available for the first 500 people who use this special link.
Why BIG? Why Monopolies?
I started BIG to fix a specific problem in how we understand commerce. When I learned basic economics, I was taught to overlook the most important thing in our economy. Power.
After working in Congress during the financial crisis, I realized that policymakers and journalists just ignore power in commerce. That is why we make bad policy, it’s why we are in a monopoly crisis, and it’s why so many are blind to the cause of the problems around us.
My goal with each issue of BIG is to explain not just a business story or problem, but to trace that story or problem to the specific political choices we’ve made around finance and market structure. There’s no handwaving about the inevitability of technology or globalization any more than scribblings about goblins or ghosts, because centering abstract forces obscures market power. What can be made by people can be unmade by people.
Focusing on market power rather than culture or partisanship is one reason this newsletter resonates so widely and so well. The other reason this newsletter works is you. I read every single email and DM you send me and every comment posted. Often the stories I write about are ones you suggested. You have helped me create this newsletter, and this community.
Together we’ve explored shortages, looked at what mega-Disney and streaming is doing to Hollywood, asked why the &*$* there is a monopoly in cheerleading, and unpacked the real economics for Amazon Prime. There’s consolidation everywhere.
Today I’m asking you to support this newsletter with a paid subscription. That will not only help me invest in making it better, but it will also signal that you think this kind of perspective is worth supporting and promoting. You can subscribe by clicking on this link or the button below.
Here’s what subscribers will get. I’ll still be sending out my regular newsletter for free, but I’m going to supplement it with extra tidbits on monopolies and antitrust politics that I come across, as well as open threads where subscribers can interact and talk about monopolies and market power problems. I’m really excited to go paid, because I’ll be able to deliver lots of cool insider-y stuff that I normally leave on the cutting room floor. There’s so much I want to do with BIG that I’ll be able to do with more resources.
Based on whether you sign up, I’ll also be able to hire people to write specialized articles in different areas. I’ll also be able to pay my copy editor, who has been putting up with my mistakes for free for far too long.
Once again, the first 500 readers to sign up for an annual subscription can use this link to get 10% off.
If you’ve been reading this newsletter for awhile, consider becoming a Founding Member and paying whatever it is that you can afford. It’ll go into investing to expose more of the problem of market power. And of course, please tell me why you signed up. I’m particularly interested in stories about encounters with monopoly power, in whatever form you’ve encountered them.
If you have any questions, you can always email me. In the meantime, subscribe by clicking on this link or the button below. You’ll be glad you did.
Does BIG Really Have Impact?
Yes! A lot of policymakers and antitrust lawyers read BIG, and it has had a significant impact on how they think and operate. Normally I’d prove this with a bunch of quotes from fancy people, but like the comedian Bill Hicks, I hate marketing. (Ok fine, here’s a New York Times piece on SolarWinds citing BIG, and here’s a fancy Harvard Law antitrust prof using the cheerleading work to analyze the current state of antitrust law).
Putting together this newsletter is a lot of work, and somewhat risky, since I often write about very powerful people. It’s also, and this may sound odd, lonely work. Most people today do not want to write about power, they have been taught it does not exist, that focusing on it is silly and unsophisticated, or that the economists are always right. Also many are just scared. But writing about power is what I do. And it is excellent to know that you have my back and think this work is worth investing in. So please, subscribe by clicking on this link or the button below.
Finally, here’s me getting advice from revolutionary war figures on modern America’s monopoly problem. They won their revolution. Can we win ours?
P.S. I love this quote, but I couldn’t find a good place to put it in this announcement. So here you go.
“America was created to break every kind of monopoly, and to set men free, upon a footing of equality, upon a footing of opportunity, to match their brains and their energies.” - Woodrow Wilson
P.P.S. Here’s my other favorite monopoly-related quote from an American leader.
“Subscribe to BIG by clicking on this link.” - Abraham Lincoln