Oh Yes, American Industries Are Much More Concentrated Than They Used to Be

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Tyler Cowen is skeptical that there are very many sectors of the US economy that have become more concentrated:

Or ask yourself a simple question — in how many sectors of the American economy do I, as a consumer, feel that concentration has gone up and real choice has gone down? Hospitals, yes. Cable TV? Sort of, but keep in mind that program quality and choice wasn’t available at all not too long ago. What else? There are Dollar Stores, Wal-Mart, Amazon, eBay, and used goods on the internet. Government schools. Hospitals. Government. Did I mention government?

This is very un-Tylerlike. Off the top of my head, here are a dozen more:

  1. Airlines
  2. National accounting firms
  3. Telephone companies
  4. Search engines
  5. Household appliances
  6. Drugstores
  7. Health insurance companies
  8. Banks
  9. Hardware stores
  10. Bookstores
  11. Beer
  12. Supermarkets

Note that high concentrations don’t necessarily mean less consumer choice. Amazon has wiped out nearly the entire bookstore industry, but my choice of books from Amazon alone is probably better than my choice from all my local bookstores combined two decades ago. The problem with highly concentrated industries is that they have too much pricing power; they inhibit innovation; and they wield too much influence over policymaking. Consumer choice is a red herring, and the sooner we focus our attention on other aspects of oligopoly the better off we’ll be.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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