I have a pet theory about the evolution of market economies. It derives from the proposition that process improvement is the fundamental origin of profits.
According to this view the Industrial Revolution was the biggest process-improvement event in history, and we should expect it to continue until human participation in the production of goods is all but eliminated.
As this evolution proceeds, our familiar income/expense-based systems for allocating the distribution of goods will have to evolve, as well. I predict there will be a shift away from general reliance on jobs for income to widespread reliance on ownership of the means of production for income.
This is the context in which I assess the story about BlackRock. The story alleges that BlackRock is committing economic evil by buying up assets like a robber baron. The danger this portends is the increasing concentration of ownership of the means of production in the hands of just a few asset management companies, BlackRock being the biggest: “For example, if you think Coke and Pepsi are competitors, they might be at a micro level but, at a macro level, both have the same primary owners: BlackRock and [one of its peers].”
This may sound scary in light of the potential for abuse so much financial power invites. On the other hand BlackRock isn’t really the primary owner of the assets it manages, its millions of shareholders are.
Many people today retire from work when their investments become sufficient to sustain the lifestyle they want. While there are risks and dangers involved, I see BlackRock and its peers as paving the way for retirement to become an option for greater numbers of people. What looks like a fearsome concentration of financial power also looks (from another angle) to be an expansion of the ownership economy.