Bigger is not always better. As Wall Street banks and big box stores such as Walmart have shown, bigger is often worse. The list of industries that have consolidated into national and global cartels is long and growing, and so is their collateral damage.
In general, this trend – accelerated by trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership – means an increase in the exploitation of labor. It also means an expansion of unregulated practices that lead to global warming, and an elimination of small businesses. (For example, think about the elimination of local pharmacies, office supply stores, banks and bakeries.)
In the case of the financial industry, the consolidation of the money supply in the hands of a few institutions has reverberating global impacts. These institutions engage in predatory lending policies toward individuals and underdeveloped nations. They thrive in these efforts through minimal regulation (in the US and most other G-20 nations), and are abetted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
This pattern is repeated in other industries, such as agriculture. A column this spring in Dollars & Sense details how Big Agriculture – which includes ancillary industries, such as pesticides and seeds – sells itself as a route to creating more and safer food for a growing population. In reality, however, as Professor John Ikerd points out in Dollars & Sense, “everywhere we look, we can see the failure of the grand experiment of industrial agriculture”:
Agricultural industrialization has had a devastating effect on the quality of rural life. Industrial agriculture has replaced independent family farmers with a far smaller number of farm workers, most of whom are paid poorly. In 1960, farmers were still more than 8% of the U.S. workforce. They are less than 1% today. Rural communities have suffered both economically and socially from this loss of traditional farm families. More than 50 years of research demonstrates that communities supported by small to mid-size family farms are better places to live, both economically and socially, than are communities dependent on large farming enterprises.
Perhaps most important, industrial agriculture has failed in its most fundamental purpose: providing food security. The percentage of “food insecure” people in the United States is greater today than during the 1960s—early in the current phase of agricultural industrialization…. Furthermore, the industrial food system is linked to a new kind of food insecurity: unhealthy foods.