The Return of Vulture Capitalism

In 1913 the great American lawyer Louis Brandeis railed against “The Curse of Bigness” in Harper’s Weekly, documenting the troubling concentration of economic power among the new tycoons and trusts of the industrial age, from railroads to steel to oil. By establishing monopolies, he argued, these private actors could dictate prices and shape the terms of access to essential goods, thus allowing them to exploit, extract, and otherwise dominate society.

But behind the monopolies lay an even more dangerous force: the financiers who jointly invested in these companies through a variety of legal and corporate vehicles. For Brandeis, this “money trust” of “banker-barons” was the ultimate villain in the industrial economy since it existed beyond the ordinary scope of traditional checks and balances. In his famous pamphlet, Other People’s Money, he warned that financiers had “acquired control so extensive as to menace the public welfare.”

– Boston Review

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