AnalysisCorporate power concentration hurts U.S. ability to produce vaccines

Published 17 February 2006

The collapse of an overly consolidated U.S. flu vaccine system two years ago did not set off any bells. Nor did the revelation, by experts studying the potential impact of an avian flu pandemic on commerce, of deep fragilities in the U.S. hyper-rationalized medical and food supply systems. The mega-merger of Procter & Gamble and Gillette last year did not do it. Nor did the general consolidation of food processors; in the United States, ten groups account for half of all retail sales, with single companies often capturing more than 75 percent of particular product markets. Neither the fact that Wal-Mart controls 30 percent of sales for many goods in the U.S. economy, nor that four companies account for 94 per cent of U.K. supermarket sales, seem to concern policymakers.

Outright monopoly is absolutely defensible — when granted temporarily to reward companies for bringing truly new ideas to market. But most of today’s powerful companies are not the result of new ideas, only the strategic reordering of markets. If anything, their goal is the oldest one in commerce — to fence in the place where deals are done, and to tax producers and consumers for the right to meet there. It will not be long until we realize that to save our free market system will require, among other actions, far more aggressive enforcement of antitrust. Simply stopping any further roll out of power will not be enough. True believers in the free market will admit there is no other choice than to roll the power back.

The paragraphs above are taken from an article by Barry Lynn, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and author of End of the Line, The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation (Doubleday), which first appeared in the Financial Times and reproduced by

-read the full article here