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In an essay in Harper's in 1913, Louis Brandeis, the future Supreme Court justice, decried the "curse of bigness," a broadside against the huge business trusts that dominated the U.S. economy. Big railroads and banks, in his view, were at core in the era's widespread economic squalor and political corruption, and he made it his aim to break them up.
The big picture: In an Oct. 25 report, the McKinsey Global Institute said that outsized companies around the world, which it calls "superstars," dominate total global business revenue, and that they are only growing more dominant.
But they are not going as far as Wu urges in what is a forcefully argued, extended essay — the immediate breakup of Facebook, and a watchful eye on the rest.
When Wu talks this way, it's because of the parallels he sees in the Gilded Age and the 1930s, when profound inequality, populism and nationalism led to "extreme politics, and ultimately war and totalitarian government." In the book, he writes:
Over the 20th century, nations that failed to control private power and attend to the economic needs of their citizens faced the rise of strongmen who promised their citizens a more immediate deliverance from economic woes. The rise of a paramount leader of government who partners with monopolized industry has an indelible association with fascism and authoritarianism.
Wu trots out statistics: In the late 1960s, the share of national income going to the top 1% of earners was 8%. As of last summer, it was 23.8%. "We are in grave danger of repeating the errors of the 20th century," he told me.
But, but but: It turns out that bigness may not always be a curse. Wu is less categorical when it comes to Amazon, which he says has good and bad qualities. On the good side, it is shaking up industries that need it, like insurance, he argues, and it provides access to products that some people otherwise would not have.
In New York, in May. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty
U.S. workers saw their largest year-on-year wage increase in a decade, but it was still too small — and inflation too high — to signal a clear break from the long period of income stagnation.
What's happening: For almost a decade, weak wage growth has defied the economic recovery and has bedeviled workers. But wages and salaries grew 3.1% year-over-year in the third quarter. That was larger than the 2.5% increase in inflation, but still not a lot, economists say.
The bottom line: "A few good quarters doesn’t make up for years of stagnation," Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Joe Biden and now a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tells Axios' Erica Pandey. "What’s remarkable is how long it takes in contemporary economic expansions before people who depend on paychecks vs. portfolios catch a break."
Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialist candidate for NY State Senate. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty
Avery Bourne, Danica Roem and Jewell Jones are all part of a rare cohort — millennial lawmakers, making up just 6% of state legislatures across the country. But there may be a lot more of them starting next Tuesday.
Axios' Khorri Atkinson reports: Numerous studies signal a surge of youth voting in the midterm elections. But what has been less apparent is that millennials — as a group holding very different views by and large from older Americans — may significantly increase their seats in state legislatures and Congress.
The big picture: Millennials are most likely to identify as liberal, numerous studies say. But Steven Olikara, founder of the Millennial Action Project, a national political group, tells Axios that millennials are also more likely to be bipartisan than their older counterparts.
They have "new ideas, fresh perspectives ... not focused on the left-vs.-right agenda. The senior members are rigid in their thinking and more tribal in their politics. That’s part of a product of being in politics for such a long time.”— Steven Olikara
Mark Gearan, director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard, tells Axios, "This is a generation less wedded to ideology and more open to creative ways to fix the problems that affect their daily lives, from health care to college tuition to finding good jobs."
By the numbers:
"We are the future, and it’s great to see so many young Republicans stepping up to lead in their communities. It all starts at home."— Matthew Oberly, spokesman, Young Republican National Federation
What to watch: The burst of political participation by a more diverse and digitally savvy generation comes as young Americans have already taken over mayoral offices in Alabama, California and Indiana.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A new battery to get planes off the ground (James Temple — MIT Tech Review)
End of the free ride for Big Tech (Felix Salmon, Sara Fischer — Axios)
Fans saved "The Expanse" (Tom Risen — Aerospace America)
The case for small-business collusion (Phillip Longman — Washington Monthly)
How NYT erred on nukes in Vietnam (Gregg Jones — Dallas Morning News)
In 2003. Photo: Brooks Kraft/Corbis/Getty
They socialized as their law careers progressed, became friends and even neighbors — everyone knew that of William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor, former Stanford classmates and future Supreme Court justices.
But what no one was aware of until now is that Rehnquist once proposed marriage to her.
The news comes in First, a forthcoming biography of O'Connor. Author Evan Thomas described it to NPR's Nina Totenberg.
Rehnquist, who went on to be chief justice, died in 2005. O'Connor, who was the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice, announced last week that she has early stages of dementia and is withdrawing from public life.