In thinking about the rise of winner-take-all effects in the corporate world, in other words, we need to separate the broad shifts in the economics of an industry from pernicious deployment of corporate power.
Think of the historical changes in the auto industry. On the eve of the Great Depression, there were 108 automakers in the United States, most of which are long since forgotten by history. By the 1950s, the Big Three were wildly dominant, fueled by the economies of scale of their assembly lines.
Yet we don’t remember the middle of the 20th century as a time when auto workers were exploited; to the contrary, it was a golden era in which workers without advanced education could attain a solid middle-class life.
The difference between that consolidation and the consolidation of major industries today was that the automakers had a strong counterweight to their power in the form of an equally powerful union that ensured the economic spoils that resulted from this concentration were shared with workers rather than exclusively retained by shareholders and executives.