When there is a general change in conditions, it is as if the entire creation had changed, and the whole world altered. —Ibn Khaldun, 14th-century Arab historian
Congressional posturing about tech firms may have quieted for the moment, but the existential crisis that these firms are creating remains as now unchecked. Even faced with opposition on both sides of the aisle, the oligarchs—those five tech giants that now constitute the world’s five most wealthiest companies—continue to rapidly consolidate economic, cultural, and, inevitably, political power on a scale not seen for over a century.
This tiny sliver of humanity, with their relatively small cadre of engineers, data scientists, and marketers, represent a challenge to democracy, competitive capitalism, and the future of the middle class. Given their virtual monopoly status, a laissez faire approach will likely result in more consolidation; only government action of some kind can stop them now. Current concerns are large enough now that both the Trump administration and many Democrats oppose Facebook’s bid to issue its own currency. That’s a hopeful first step.
No surprise then that tech firms are radically boosting their DC operations—Google is the top corporate spender in D.C., while Facebook and Amazon (whose CEO owns The Washington Post) are in the top 20. Money is the mother’s milk of politics, and the oligarchs have more of it than anyone in a capital that has all the scruples of the Roman Praetorian Guard, with loyalties always at sale for a little silver.
Cross-posted at New Geography