When I answer the phone, Zephyr Teachout quickly explains our call might be shorter than planned. Both she and I are at the whim of her two-year-old toddler, who is sleeping and could wake at any time.
Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, is best known for her runs for governor of the state and for Congress from New York’s 19th district (both races she lost). She has also written numerous books, including her latest, “BREAK ‘EM UP: Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.” Our discussion comes the day after historic Big Tech antitrust hearings in Congress.
Teachout sees the antitrust discussion as a flashpoint for understanding how democracy and corruption collide. To her, concentrations of private power, as with the Big Tech companies, can’t be fixed with, say, campaign finance reform. These companies are a threat to the public sphere and our ability as individuals to make decisions about the future.
We discussed the antitrust hearings in Congress, what she means by a “f–k-off economy,” and the “parallel governments” that massive companies have created for users of their services. She is not currently knowledgeable about blockchain and cryptocurrency, but sees them as potentially useful tools for achieving economic decentralization.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What was your reaction to the six-hour antitrust hearings yesterday?
Wow. It was a beautiful thing. Congressman David Cicilline [D-R.I.]was totally clear: “This is about democracy versus monopoly. You guys work for us. We’re serious. We’re going to do serious things. And we have some questions.” He had this totally electrifying tone.
And the committee came prepared. They had documents and they focused on the evidence at hand. It couldn’t have been more different than the Mark Zuckerberg Senate hearing after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where senators were…