Alex (yakshaver) wrote,
Alex
yakshaver

The Curse of Bigness

When I was being treated for cancer, 22 years ago now, one of the few rays of sunshine in my life was the tiny lending library for patients in the basement of one of MGH's dreary mid-century buildings. They didn't have much of a selection, but the Biography shelf had some genuinely interesting people in amongst the celebrities. One of whom was Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

Brandeis' early fame came from his work in antitrust law. And, in relation to that, a striking phrase that I always remembered from that biography was "The Curse of Bigness." Which for years I thought was the title of an essay. Every now and again throughout the 1990s, as the web became a thing and web searching got ever more sophisticated, I tried to find that essay, which built in my mind to the definitive concise statement of the societal dangers of unrestricted corporate growth, by one of the great pioneers of fighting such giant monsters.

Finally, in 2002 or so, I found it as a book title: The Curse of Bigness: Miscellaneous Papers of Louis Brandeis. I found a copy at Powells, and ordered it. When it arrived, it turned out to be just what it said on the tin: A massive volume of assorted collected writings. None of which appeared to be the definitive statement of the problem I had been imagining.

All that time, Brandeis' ideas were very much out of fashion. Then came the melt-down, perpetrated upon us by corporations "too big to fail." If ever the time was ripe for an essay such as I had been imaging Justice Brandeis to have written, it is now.

So now I ask: does anyone know of such an essay? Not necessarily by Brandeis, or even rooted in his work (though I would love that). But a concise, well-written, and accessible summary of the case for society chopping its giants down to size.

[Edit: A friend elsewhere has pointed out Other People's Money, a collection of essays Brandeis published in Harper's Weekly during the antitrust debate 100 years ago. It's not clear whether one of those essays is what I'm looking for, but halfway through the first one I decided it's definitely worth my time to read them through and find out.]

[Edit 2: And having now actually read the table of contents in Other People's Money, I note an article entitled "A Curse of Bigness". Which seems highly likely to be the droid I'm looking for....]
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