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

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  588 ratings  ·  98 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 updat
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Kindle Edition
Published October 2019 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2019)
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Mehrsa
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Michael Perkins
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a long, detailed book. If you don't have time to read it, this article should be enough.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...

============

Why Democrats Keep Losing Rural Counties Like Mine

https://www.politico.com/news/magazin...

============

"Though most members didn’t know it, the Democratic Congress of 1975 had just taken the single biggest step toward the destruction of the independent business enterprise—and the small producer and small retailer—in the history of America."

"White sout
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David Dayen
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 c ...more
Athan Tolis
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 k
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Daniel
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Ac
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Wick Welker
America has created and recreated itself over and over again. We must do it again.

The sweeping history from the last 100 years of monopolisitc powers versus the average American person is presented in Goliath, told with great detail, great accuracy and with both temperance and passion. Scarcely do I read a book that so thoroughly demonstrates current problems through history, and from that history, provides a roadmap out of the current concentration of power in which we live.

Stoller starts this
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Jayesh
Dec 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Y
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Charlie
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Andrew Figueiredo
One of the best books I've read this year. Stoller weaves together a compelling narrative of how Washington lost its way on challenging corporate concentration. All along, he pays special attention to Texas Congressman Wright Patman, a relatively unknown name who shaped the approach to concentrated power for years. If Patman, along with Brandeis, Robert Jackson, and FDR, are the heroes, the book is also filled with those who undermined real antimonopoly enforcement, pointing to the incredible am ...more
John
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is something of a re-situating / re-telling of American political history since the 1910s from the point of view of understanding the control over everyday people and their lives (and the resistance to their wishes) brought by monopolies and trusts. For me, at least, It read a bit as one of those "what they didn't tell you in your American History class" books. In this book, the great heroes are people like Wright Patman (who was first elected during the Depression; you may know him as ...more
Nathan
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 comm ...more
Charlie Quimby
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
B
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I have read this year, and the best on the topic of anti-trust. Coming on the heels of another book on the same topic (and from another fellow from Open Markets Institute!), the difference in quality could not be greater.

Although one senses Stoller’s sympathies and his nostalgia for the New Deal as a “populist” (in the old sense of the word), he does an excellent job in portraying the main economic currents and characters that are part of the clash between pro and anti-mon
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James
This is probably 3.5 stars, but I have a lot of affection for the work Stoller continues to do on monopolization and corporate power, and it's so well-researched and so willing to be contrarian about things in U.S. history like the supposed liberalism of Jimmy Carter and the total removal of Mellon from history books (I know, I taught AP U.S. History for 4 years and he never made it into any of the materials) that I bumped it up.

I'd bump it down for the repetitive nature of the arguments and the
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Carl
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 interesting about th ...more
Glenda
More that a stark look at 21st Century monopolies (Google, Facebook, Amazon), “Goliath” travels the history of monopolies in the U.S. back to Alexander Hamilton. If there’s a hero who tried to protect democracy against monopolistic power in our history it’s Wright Patman, but both Democrat’s and republicans worked to destroy antitrust protections with the Chicago School of economic thought embraced by both unleashing the beasts that now have a chokehold on our products and services. Key players ...more
Mlg
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If it hadn’t been a choice of my book club, I never would have picked up this book. It’s a weighty history of the anti monopoly movement in the US, that is sure to teach you something new. The author seems to have given up on the Republicans to ever do the right thing, but also has some criticism of Democrats who were also complicit. There is so much blame to go around whether it’s for the Chicago School Economists, or the tech giants of today. The author makes a convincing case for monopolies c ...more
Frank Ruscica
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 th
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Fraser Kinnear
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 ecli
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Zac Trotter
Although I enjoyed much of the book (90% of it is “history,” or at least Stoller’s retelling of it, and it could be captivating at parts) the “conclusion” was bizarre: No actual policy proposals, just vague platitudes about how concentration is bad, particularly with respect to Google, Amazon, and Facebook, with no prescription on how to correct it. It reads like a “call to arms” to an audience that doesn’t quite know exactly what it is fighting for. Regardless, glad I read it. 3/5, would recomm ...more
Jonah
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 b ...more
Eileen Breseman
Detailed, thorough and very long history of the 20th c. monopolists, their dismantling, breakup and bridling by legislation, followed by the return starting in the 1970s as the old guard changed to baby boomer congressmen/women. Like a domino trick, piece by piece the New Deal restrictions are removed and now we are at a place where monopolies are stronger than ever, and looking to control our lives. Fascinating and horrifying, like climate change, we are at a tipping point on action.
Mathiasquackenbush
Bringing us a story that desperately needed to be told, Stoller seeks to resurrect a long-standing American tradition of populist resistance against large concentrations of economic power. After failures to constrain this power led up to the collapse of the American and world economy in the great depression, populists like Wright Patman fought for effective anti-trust enforcement to maintain a healthy and competitive economy. But as the New Deal anti-trust regime faded from hard-won revolution t ...more
David
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
Alexis
This is a tricky book for me to review, as I fundamentally agree with Stoller about the evil of corporate monopolies, but his historical interpretation does not sit well with me.

Stoller chooses to interpret anti-monopolism as an oversimplified battle between populists and elitists. In his telling, elitists, on the left as well as the right, are the enemy. He contrasts antimonopolists with planners, with elitists. And this leads him to gloss over those aspects of populism which are not in keepin
...more
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 s ...more
Myles Wolfe
I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of really interesting information in it. It also was well researched. It takes a single political/economic issue (Monopolies) and traces it through 100 years of American history leading up to the the 2008 Financial Crisis. Whatever bias this writer holds was quite visable and easily discernable (dont worry, you wont be inadvertently indoctrinated). But Stoller does make a convincing case for breaking them up. I did not finish the book because it is just t ...more
Elsie
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a history of the growth of business and finance in the US and the response of government anti monopoly laws. The large arch is from the monopoly/big business friendly government policies at the start of the 1900s to the New Deal and the Fair Trade Commission work to stop the harmful practices of railway and other monopolies and the gradual ascent of the monopoly friendly Chicago School until even the Democrats adopted this with Obama bailing out the financial institutions failing because ...more
Yong Kwon
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An ambitious history of the struggle between monopoly interests and anti-monopoly activists in the United States during the past 100 years. In particular, Stoller recounts how the generation that came after the Great Society so seamlessly transitioned to the unfettered predatory capitalism of the Reagan years (and how the New Deal coalition was broken by the Democratic party's failure to protect small shopowners, which helped push the South to the Republican Party - an interesting counternarrati ...more
Edward Rathke
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is really the story of the Democratic Party embracing populist economics to help bring millions of people out of disaster, which led to decades of them being the dominant political party in the US, then abandoning those same economic policies to push millions of people back into disaster and gradually become a party so ineffectual it's lost most of the country. It's the story of the Democrats going from the party of small businesses, farmers, and unions, to the party of Wall Street and Sili ...more
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“To choose wisely, we must unlearn much of the history we have been taught. Many of us learned a version of our history as one of inevitable progress, goodness, and triumph. Many of us learned the inverted version, that our history is one of inevitable sin, racism, conquest, greed. Neither of these is true, because both versions airbrush out our own free will. The truth is, America is a battle, a struggle for justice. And we choose, every generation, who wins.” 1 likes
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