It was the unemployed heating salesman Charles Darrow from Philadelphia who had the idea in the mid-1930s to develop a board game out of the gloom of his time. It’s about buying up entire streets on which houses and hotels are then to be built. The aim is to drive the other players into ruin.
In those days of the Great Depression, the game was first finance, then inflation – and finally Monopoly. With an estimated 300 million copies sold, it is still the most popular parlor game in the western world. It is played at the kitchen table – and also in real business life with great passion.
Unlike Rockefeller’s oil empire, the monopolies of Silicon Valley and the oligopolies of Wall Street do not define themselves as sole suppliers, but as companies with a dominant position. They are the friendly hegemon, for whom a market share of 40 to 80 percent is enough to set prices and dictate technical standards. You want the XXL profit without immediately calling for state regulation.
We are dealing here with an aggressive, one could also say wolfish variety of capitalism, which differs in important characteristics from the domesticated species that we call the social market economy:
Which brings us to Google, Apple, Amazon and Co., who dominate their respective markets and have financial strength that has never existed before in the world. Hans-Jürgen Jakobs, the former Handelsblatt editor-in-chief and author of the standard work “The Monopoly in the 21st Century”, comes to the following conclusion: “All of a sudden we realize that this system, which we appreciate as a market economy, is there, its central Means to ‘dispose of’ the competition on the special dump of a new capital-feudalism.”
Here are the facts:
Comparison of the economic strength (GDP) of selected countries with the market capitalization of the world’s largest companies, in trillions of US dollars
The current situation with inflation, an explosion in energy prices and geostrategic risks in Europe and Asia will further widen the gap between American monopoly capitalism and German companies, and here in particular family businesses.
Because these monopoly profits are the treasure chest from which one can live in times of crisis. The dexterity of these conglomerates to relocate their supply chains across the globe is great and facilitated by pricing power. The head of the supervisory board of a DAX company comes to the conclusion: “The accelerating geopolitical and economic development is a frontal attack on German medium-sized companies and thus on social peace in our country.”
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Conclusion: Despite all the potential dangers from Russia and China, it is worth not losing sight of the real shift in power within the western market economies.
Naivety is not punishable, but life-threatening. Not that later in the history books it says: The Germans firmly believed in the beneficial effects of the social market economy. And the Americans played Monopoly.
Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.
Since the European Central Bank has been raising the key interest rate step by step, more and more banks are following suit. Credit institutions are outdoing each other with ever higher interest rates on savings deposits. Now the first German bank offers 1.5 percent call money interest – nationwide.