If you're a history lover as I am, the phrases 'consolidation in business' or 'consolidation in industry' might bring to mind a situation from the turn of the twentieth century depicted in this post's image of consolidated industries controlling the U.S. Senate.
An industrialist, financier, or group of companies, gradually buy up so many of their competitors that they come to dominate the market. Without any concern from now consolidated competitors, the monopolies are free to drive down prices for the raw materials they buy and freely hike prices for the finished goods they sell. Famously successful and wealthy consolidators of the past included J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and John D Rockefeller.
But under the maxim of history repeating itself, large-scale consolidation is not only something that took place over a hundred years ago. It's been creeping back into many industries, and now it's helping raise our consumer prices and driving down commodity prices.
This is particularly true in the meat-packing industry, where four giant firms control 85% of the market for beef, simultaneously helping bring us some of the eye-popping prices we've seen at meat counters and keeping payments to cattle ranchers so low many are selling at a loss. The New York Times podcast The Daily does a fantastic job reporting how this came to be and its impact in this episode. I urge everyone to listen to it and demand their federal and state lawmakers take steps to bring competition back into the meat industry and others.