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Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  196 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A startling look at how concentrated financial power and consumerism transformed American politics, resulting in the emergence of populism and authoritarianism, the fall of the Democratic Party—while also providing the steps needed to create a new democracy.

Americans once had a coherent and clear understanding of political tyranny, one crafted by Thomas Jefferson and
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Simon Schuster (first published 2019)
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Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a "big idea book" (and a big book in general) that traces one thread through American history. This thread is monopoly power. When you tell history myopically like this, you revise history and miss a lot, but that's ok because the point is to just follow one story . So I think there is a lot of missed context in this story and some facts that just aren't right. Still, I think it's a worthwhile read.

To Stoller, there are good guys and bad guys in this story. The good guys: Wright Patman
David Dayen
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You're going to want to get this book for understanding a century of history of American political economy. We're in sort of a strange time right now where aggregate economic statistics do not correspond to daily life, where regional inequality along with income and wealth inequality has spiraled out of control, where there's an implicit sense of wrongness about the way our society is structured. And there are antecedents to other times in America, when robber barons and financiers and private ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Democracy and Capitalism have a tension between them that may be fatal to either one or the other. If the market is unchecked competition leads to firms competing for market share and as with competition, there is usually a winner which leads to monopoly and concentration of power by firms and corporations. This tendency of corporations to amass wealth and power is inimical to democracy. Our history of the past 100 or so years starts with the domination of corporations threatening our democracy ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hamilton (tycoon lover) vs Jefferson (99% lover).

This is an epic book spanning over a century of monopolies (Goliaths). So big companies not only squeeze consumers and not invest and only pay shareholders, they also pay academics whose theories support their behaviour. The anti-monopolists had lost and there was no academic support by the ‘plain people’. That’s why inequality is worsening, middle class jobs are disappearing, pay for most people is dropping, and populism is rising.

1. Sherman
Athan Tolis
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This five-star book is the definitive 500-page history of the rise and the fall (and the potential for re-birth) of the populist movement in America.

As a society, Stoller argues, we are called today to face down one more time the biggest modern enemy of the American people: monopoly power. His main goal is to address a single part of this puzzle; to set us straight on the historical record:

“You are here and let me tell you how you ended up here,” he says. His clear intention is that

(i) if we
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a very thought-provoking book, but is also a one-sided argument that pre-supposes many of the core claims.

I enjoyed looking at American political history through the prism of anti-trust (you can read about the same time period ten times through different lenses, and learn something new each time). It was particularly interesting to follow the evolution of political philosophies, and of party platforms, over time. There’s still a lot I’d like to understand about New Deal thinking and the
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Goliath is a fascinating meld of known and forgotten American history, set forth by a guide with strong and clear opinions as to how we arrived at here from there. While both political parties in the United States have largely coalesced around a free-trade, pro-monopoly theory of economic organization, Goliath sternly reminds readers that this modern Washington consensus is at odds with the base, fundamental political values that have shaped the American experiment. At the moment, political ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Not quite a five because it's tedious in parts & lacks evidence of a balanced coverage yet it is detailed & important. The strongest lesson I learned from undergraduate economics is monopoly, "illegal combinations in restraint of trade" = BAD! Since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, American politicians, jurists & economists have been equivocating with that maxim & the result is exactly the kind of corporate state with unacceptable levels of inequality that we face today. What is ...more
Charlie Quimby
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An important book for the case it makes against the concentration of economic power in America (5), though a bit less (4) for compelling writing.

Definitely worth reading before the 2020 election if you are trying to differentiate among competing candidates. And essential if you’re concerned about a country run by private equity, Amazon, Walmart, Google and Facebook.
Frank Ruscica
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Re: Goliath is a must-read

Summary (details follow)

Goliath shows that large financial-asset-management firms (i.e., large institutional investors) can be expected to pursue high ROI by $UPPORTING companies that have credible strategies for becoming a monopolist, and/or for leveraging their monopoly. Re: "can be expected": Goliath shows that past protections against monopoly have been rolled back, starting in the 1970s.

2019 book Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud shows that
David V.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started 9-13-19. Finished 9-26-19. Well-researched history of the US economy starting with the Robber Barons of the late 1800's and ending with #45's presidency. It shows the pendulum swinging back and forth between who's running our country: big business or the people. The sub-title is The 1oo-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Populism (not Democracy, as it says above). Almost 100 pages of references and notes. Mr. Stoller names the politicians on each ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
My favorite history books are the ones that totally surprise me, and provide a sprawling but consistent perspective on a story I thought I knew. Goliath tells the history of the cycles of influence monopoly power has had on the US over the past hundred years.

Stoller is a great story teller, personifying an abstract market concept with generations heroes and villains, to applaud and denounce. And channeling the underdog story he chose for his title, even the ranks of his selected heroes are
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
This was overall a pretty good book, and I debated whether to go for 3 or 4 stars. I end up going with 3 because Stoller's insistence on seeing EVERYTHING through the lens of monopoly is pretty tiring, especially when he claims vaguely related sweeping historical stem from monopoly power in some tangential way. It really undermines his better researched parts when he does this (quite frequently), and it overall makes his book less cohesive. I really enjoy that this is a solid political economy ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully in-depth history of the relationship between big business and American government from the 1890s to the present. Stoller dives deep into the Populist movement and how monopolistic power (such as from Mellon, Morgan, Rockerfeller, Carnegie, etc) influenced government in years past and influences government today. The most surprising fact for me was that aluminum was once more rare than gold (so much so that Napoleon would use silver and gold place settings for his usual guests, but ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
First half (third?) is another look at American history during the Depression years (albeit better done in Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World). Overall an interesting read about the history of rise and fall and rise of monopoly power in the US.

In a way it reminded me of Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent and Understanding Power. Yes every claim seemingly has a citation. As SSC noted in his review of Manufacturing Consent:

When they try to prove something, by golly, it stays proved.

Troy Toman
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give this five star, not because it is perfect (it’s not), but because it is so relevant and so full of information about our recent history. While this is a highly opinionated take on the last 100 years of economic history, it lays bare a lot of basics that almost no one covers in a standard history class. Whether you agree with all of the conclusions drawn or not. This book will make you take a fresh look at what has been happening to our country and the world economy. I think that means ...more
Mark Greenbaum
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The nation and the Democratic Party could use a roadmap to put themselves back on a path of prosperity and success, the stakes being the future of democracy and manageable capitalism. The sense reading this is that Stoller wants to provide that roadmap. I think he has. While he takes some liberties, and abbreviates eras and events, his agonizing history of the slow, inexorable corruption of the United States and the Democratic Party is overwhelming. It's also remarkably readable -- Stoller is ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
In light of its crucial and criminally underconsidered subject matter, it pains me to have to inform you that this book is incredibly difficult to read. I had to check whether I had the published version or had stumbled upon a first draft. The references that need explanation have none and the references that don’t have lots. Names enter and are given one “fun” characteristic each, do their thing, retire, and then come back six pages later. I don’t find any of the material dry at all: it is ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
draft notes
currently p. 252 of 460; 100 pages of Notes
Stoller uses Wright Patman as a thread for a detailed look at monopolists vs anti-monopolists. Many variations crossing party lines and economic platforms

skipping to Conclusion, p. 442
"A nation's greatness can be measured by the happiness and prosperity of the people who produce the nation's wealth." - Wright Patman, 1941
I believe both Patman and Stoller would not include the financiers, bankers, wall street tycoons, monopoly CEOs, etc as the
Scott Ford
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, politics
Why do Democrats have such a hard time organizing a winning platform in the 21st century? Answers found within! This is a very well organized history of anti-trust legislative development and demise. Stoller does a great job of linking FDR New Deal practices to Woodrow Wilson and Louis Brandise's New Freedom sensibilities and follows through to the 1970's Democratic betrayal ("Water Gate Babies" who sold-out on the basic Democratic party platform of "We've got your back, America!") and into the ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an exceptional book. While it has polemic goals, it is, at heart, a comprehensive history of how the US position on monopoly and concentration of economic power in the marketplace has evolved, and ultimately, become profound distorted. There is far too much to say about it than can fit in this review. I listened to it on Audible but wish I owned the hard copy because I would love to extract and share most of the final chapter. In particular, Stoller’s description of Amazon’s reach, ...more
Sandford Parker
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A huge, accessible history of a topic, monopoly power and the unusual, counter-intuitive alliances that fighting and supporting it have forged over the years. This is one of those books, similar to last year's The History of the United States in Ten Strikes, that makes you feel more knowledgeable and at the same time makes you realize there is a whole area of economic history to investigate, one so central to the American experiment, where the interest of workers, consumers, capital and ...more
Ed Mckernan
A very liberal slant

This book suffers from a liberal slant and is missing a key review of Fed policy that drove economic conditions both good and bad. Saying Reagan intended to hurt farmers is incorrect. Farmers in 1980s more impacted by Volkers raising interest rates above 20% and thus drastically reducing inflation while commodities crashed. Likewise giving Clinton credit in late 1990s while not focusing on Fed east monetary policies is remiss.
Holly Dolezalek
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for every person in America. Stoller has done a great service to democracy by revisiting our country's history of antimonopolism and connecting the dots between the collapse of the New Deal and the financial crashes, unemployment, and other disasters that ordinary people have been surviving (or not) since the 1960s. Do yourself a favor and read this book stat.
Mary Gearing
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
4.5 stars rounded down
Very thorough but readable introduction to monopolies - the last chapter discussing the 90s onward and conclusion are especially valuable. I loved learning about Wright Patman and other populist defenders. The contrast of New Deal politics with the Chicago School is so striking and well-explained by Stoller.
Andy Bintoro
eye-opening and very intruguing. this is basically a history of america, but the point of view was on how monopoly became a rising star in every turning point of world economy. many big company exist until now because of this practice.
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit like watching a slow-motion accident between two nuclear freighters that in turn blows up an entire city
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
Dry, but to the point.
Carl F
Dec 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
An extremely biased account. All topics better covered elsewhere. Read Philippon's "The Great Reversal" instead.
Rob Di
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting read on history of anti-trust and monopolies.
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