The word “free” in “free enterprise” is not an adjective, it’s a verb – as in, let’s “free up” the enterprise of small businesspeople who’re locked out of the marketplace by monopoly power.
From cable TV to chickens, market after market has been seized by a few corporations, enabling them to set prices, cut quality, and shrink service. We could cry in our beer about that, but even brewskis are falling to monopolists. The latest (and biggest) example is the proposed merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev with SABMiller, creating colossus that would control a third of all beer sales in the world and a whopping 70 percent of all US sales.
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Yet, the resulting A-B InBev behemoth asserts that there’ll be no anti-trust problems, because hundreds of small breweries are popping up like dandelions everywhere, creating a wide-open competition for customers.
How free-enterprise-y! And fallacious. You see, to get customers, first you have to be able to get to them – ie, be able to get your beers in the bars and on store shelves. That access is mostly controlled in the US by beer wholesalers, and they decide which products they will – and will not – distribute. Now, guess which big honking beer maker has been aggressively buying up wholesale distributorships in recent years? Yes, A-B InBev, giving it the power in various markets to lock out those pesky small breweries. No shelf space, no sales. No sales, no business.
Anheuser-Busch InBev gloats that it will be the “first truly global brewery.” But who cares? We quaffers of the brewers’ art don’t want One Big Beer, but many good ones – and this bully is becoming “global” only by rigging the market to shut down our good beers. To revolt against this monopolizer, connect with the California Craft Brewers Association: www.CaliforniaCraftBeer.com.
“Will Mega Mergers Hurt the Craft Beer Boom?” The New York Times, October 22, 2015.