I was watching a few people play the Monopoly board game the other day, and I thought back to years ago, when my dad told me about how the game is actually a satire of our economic system. I didn’t know what he was talking about back then, but now I do, because it’s happening in real life. I believe (and correct me if I’m wrong) AT&T bought out Direct TV a while ago, Disney bought the rights to both Marvel and Star Wars (both of which will be getting new movies), and Google bought Youtube a while back.
It may seem harmless at first, and after all, companies are buying each other out every day. And after all, if it means more Marvel movies (yay!), how bad can it be? But think about it this way. If you’ve ever played Monopoly, you know that the goal is to get as many properties on the board as possible and drive your opponents into bankruptcy. And when you own all three properties of a same color (ex. all the green or yellow properties), you get to charge your opponents more if they land on one of them. That’s a monopoly. When you own all aspects of an industry, there’s no competition to keep you from raising your prices exponentially and making more and more money that people have to pay. It might seem good for you if you’re the owner of the properties, but to everyone else, it’s a nightmare. People dread coming around the board and risking landing on your property.
But that’s just the game. One of the biggest real life examples, and certainly the first one that comes to my mind, is the competition, or lack thereof, between Comcast and AT&T. There’s been a debate for a while as to which company is the worst. The problem is, these two companies own most Americans’ access to the internet. Do you know what company you’re going through to read this post? There’s a big chance it’s one of the two I named. These two corporate giants have bought out smaller companies over the years, and have agreed to stay out of eachother’s territory. Which means if you don’t like one company, there’s often not another company to switch to. Sometimes in big cities you can get lucky and find another provider, but a lot of people don’t have that option. And because these is almost no competition in the market for internet providers, the companies can raise their prices (and your bill!!) though the roof, and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it. There is also the issue of net neutrality, which is closely related to this issue, but if I started on that topic I wouldn’t be able to stop. Basically, these companies can demand popular websites (like netfilx) to pay them money, or else they’ll slow down people’s internet speeds when accessing those sites. Think about it like this: Instead of landing on people’s little cardboard properties and having to pay fake money, you’re paying real money for landing on Facebook, Netfilx, Tumblr, Steam, and every other website you use.
In other words, you’re paying more money for less service.