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Time for a Conservative Anti-Monopoly Movement

Earlier this month Amazon announced [1] its plans to establish a second headquarters in North America. Rather than simply reveal which city would become its second home, the Seattle-based tech company opted instead to open a bidding war. In an eight page document [2] published on its website, Amazon outlined the criteria for prospective suitors, and invited economic developers to submit proposals advocating for why their city or region should be the host of the new location.   

Its potential arrival comes with the claim that the company will invest more than $5 billion in construction and generate up to 50,000 “high paying jobs.” Mayors and governors, hard at work crafting their bids, are no doubt salivating at the mere thought of such economic activity. Journalists and editorial teams in eligible metropolises are also playing their parts, as newspapers have published [3] a series of articles and editorials making the case [4] for why their city [5] should be declared the winner.

Last Tuesday Bloomberg reported [6] that Boston was the early frontrunner, sending a wave of panic across the continent. Much to the relief of the other contenders, Amazon quickly discredited the report as misinformation, announcing in a series of tweets [7] on Wednesday that it is “energized by the response from cities across [North America]” and that, contrary to the rumors, there are currently no front-runners on their “equal playing field.”

That Amazon is “energized” should come as no surprise. Most companies would also be energized by the taxpayer-funded windfall that is likely coming its way. Reporters speculate that the winner of the sweepstakes—in no small part to the bidding war format—could be forced to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local subsidies for the privilege of hosting Amazon’s expansion.

Amazon has long been the beneficiary of such subsidies, emerging in recent years as a formidable opponent [8] to Walmart as the top recipient of corporate welfare. According to Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C. organization dedicated to corporate and government accountability, Amazon has received more than $1 billion [9] in local and state subsidies since 2000. With a business plan dedicated to amassing long-term market share in lieu of short-term profits, Amazon, under the leadership of its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, operates on razor-thin profit margins in most industries, while actually operating at a loss in others. As such, these state and local subsidies have played an instrumental role in Amazon’s growth [10].

Advocates of free market enterprise should be irate over the company’s crony capitalist practices and the cities and states that enable it. But more so than simply ruffling the feathers of the libertarian-minded, Amazon’s shameless solicitation for subsidies capped off a series of summer skirmishes in the Democratic left’s emerging war against monopolies.

Earlier this summer when Amazon announced its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods, antitrust advocates called upon [11] the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission’s Antitrust Division to block the sale and update [12] the United States government’s legal definition of monopoly. Although the acquisition—which was approved [13] in August—only gives Amazon a 1.5 percent market share in the grocery industry, it more importantly provides the tech giant with access to more than 450 brick-and-mortar Whole Foods locations. Critics say that these physical locations will prove invaluable [14] to its long term plan of economic dominance, and that it is but the latest advance in the company’s unprecedented control of the economy’s underlying infrastructure. [15]

Google also found itself in the crosshairs of the left’s anti-monopoly faction when, in late June, the European Union imposed a $2.7 billion fine [16] against the tech company for anti-competitive search engine manipulation in violation of its antitrust laws. The Open Markets Program of the New America Foundation subsequently published a press release applauding the EU’s decision. Two months later, the Open Markets Program was axed [17]. The former program director Barry Lynn claims [18] that his employers caved to pressure from a corporation that has donated more than $21 million to the New America Foundation. The fallout emboldened journalists [19] to share their experiences of being silenced by the tech giant, and underscores the influence Google exerts over think tanks [20] and academics [21].

Most recently, Facebook faced criticism after it was discovered [22] that a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin purchased $100,000 in ads from the social media company in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Facebook, as a result, has become the latest subject of interest in Robert Mueller’s special investigation into Russian interference in last fall’s election. But regardless of whether the ads influenced the outcome, the report elicited demands for transparency and oversight in a digital ad marketplace that Facebook, along with Google, dominates [23]. By using highly sophisticated algorithms, Facebook and Google receive more than 60 percent [24] of all digital ad revenue, threatening the financial solvency of publishers and creating a host of economic incentives that pollute [25] editorial autonomy.  

While the Democratic left—in an effort to rejuvenate its populist soul [26]—has been at the front lines in the war against these modern-day robber barons, [27] Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, suggests that opposition to corporate consolidation need not be a partisan issue. In a piece published in The Atlantic, Mitchell traces the bipartisan history of anti-monopoly sentiment in American politics. She writes [28]:

If “monopoly” sounds like a word from another era, that’s because, until recently, it was. Throughout the middle of the 20th century, the term was frequently used in newspaper headlines, campaign speeches, and State of the Union addresses delivered by Republican and Democratic presidents alike. Breaking up too-powerful companies was a bipartisan goal and on the minds of many voters. But, starting in the 1970s, the word retreated from the public consciousness. Not coincidentally, at the same time, the enforcement of anti-monopoly policy grew increasingly toothless.

Although the modern Republican Party stands accused of cozying up with corporate interests, the history of conservative thought has a rich intellectual tradition of being skeptical—if not hostile—towards economic consolidation. For conservatives and libertarians wedded to the tenets of free market orthodoxy—or for Democrats dependent on campaign contributions [29] from a donor class of Silicon Valley tycoons—redefining the legal definition of monopoly and rekindling a bipartisan interest in antitrust enforcement are likely non-starters.

But for conservatives willing to break from the principles of free market fundamentalism, the papal [30] encyclicals [31] of the Roman Catholic Church, the distributist thought [32] of Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, the social criticism [33] of Christopher Lasch, and the observations [34] of agrarian essayist Wendell Berry provide an intellectual framework from which conservatives can critique and combat concentrated economic power. With a respect for robust and resilient localities and a keen understanding of the moral dangers posed by an economy perpetuated by consumerism and convenience, these writers appeal to the moral imaginations of the reader, issuing warnings about the detrimental effects that economic consolidation has on the person, the family, the community, and society at large.

The events of this summer underscore the immense political power wielded by our economy’s corporate giants. To those who recognize the dangers posed by our age of consolidation, the skirmishes from this summer could serve as a rallying cry in a bipartisan war for independence from our corporate crown.  

Daniel Kishi is an editorial assistant at The American Conservative. Follow him on Twitter: @DanielMKishi [35]

42 Comments (Open | Close)

42 Comments To "Time for a Conservative Anti-Monopoly Movement"

#1 Comment By The Color of Celery On September 19, 2017 @ 12:18 am

Alvin Toffler saw a future where service workers would provide much of the social interaction of a society that had fewer ties to family and friends. Amazon Go removes even that. If they were everywhere, and people needed to shop there because of the prices, would Amazon hire kindly people to visit old ladies with cats to make sure they weren’t lonely? If Facebook and Google are being pressured to alleviate some of the problems they cause for the communities they are in, how about Social Interaction Teams from Amazon? No, I guess not.

Our dependency on purchasing services and products has been cultivated to the point where we don’t make our own coffee or wash our dog. Manipulation by monopolies would remove the ability to escape this dependency. If they control the search results, they control knowledge. Innundation with political propaganda could result in politicians of someone else’s choosing, and price and product availability manipulation mean income and location could result in greater inequality.

Our future looks more dystopian all the time.

The US may have let the rich become too powerful. We worship the rich, or at least admire them and want to be like them. Reining in the monopolies may have to come from outside the US. I’m not sure we have the courage to do it. Even with bipartisan cooperation, it may be like reducing the debt: something noise is made about, but no action is ever taken.

#2 Comment By Rod Willmot On September 19, 2017 @ 12:53 am

Anyone who is pro-business, pro-capitalism and/or pro-democracy should be anti-monopolization. This is not a partisan issue. Though the U.S. has adequate laws for controlling the ever-present tendency to form monopolies, those laws have been repeatedly ignored since the Reagan administration and under all administrations since.

For anyone interested in learning more, I highly recommend Barry C. Lynn’s book “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction”.

#3 Comment By Frank Lettucebee On September 19, 2017 @ 2:32 am

Same old story. The rabid right only cares about deficits when there is a Democratic President and/or Congress.

As VP Cheney said, “President Reagan has shown that deficits don’t matter.

So when massive deficits are created by government playing Santa Claus to the short sighted, mean spirited self serving rich and the Voodoonomics they promote, NO PROBLEM.

Since President Reagan initiated in 1980, and which has constituted until this day, the reign of trickle down, right wing class warfare Voodoonomics which included the complete non-enforcement of regulations and antitrust laws that was all good as it let economic freedom ride.

As soon as companies that started by Democrats or are head quartered in Blue States like California or Washington have economic and monopoly power, suddenly the realization that the big difference between communism and capitalism isn’t private ownership but the concentration of ownership.

Oligopoly is private sector socialism. Monopoly is private sector communism.

Right wingers only seem to care about anti-trust laws only when the American plutocrats and oligarchs rigging the system are of the rare variety of Democrats.

Ironic

#4 Comment By polistra On September 19, 2017 @ 4:16 am

I don’t think TR’s trustbusting has any leftover resonance among the influential “conservatives”. Followers of Ayn Rand are firmly pro-monopoly and pro-Bezos. The attitude shows up starkly in discussions of Shkreli, where all “conservatives” stoutly defend his “right” to corner the market and kill people for maximum profit.

#5 Comment By neutral On September 19, 2017 @ 4:57 am

This article is a good example of why the Republicans deserve “the stupid” party label. The pro business wing only cares about lowering taxes for corporations (and endless overseas war), these same corporations are overwhelmingly left wing and overwhelmingly fund and support the Democrats. For the Democrats they can claim to be for the man on street (they are obviously not in reality) and at the same time get corporate support and an endless stream of new voters as big business wants endless immigration.

#6 Comment By Mia On September 19, 2017 @ 6:15 am

Let me caution you on crowing too much against many of these firms, especially Amazon, because they manage to still support the “little guy” in businesses against corporations (many of whom only get their dirty laundry aired on obscure legal blogs and not the MSM or brand-name publications). They have some very ugly practices that get a pass for some reason, and Amazon has really been empowering artists and producers, as has been many tech giants. Entire industries are now forced to rethink their exploitation of certain groups of people – I won’t go into detail, because talking too specifically about it on a blog like this could get me in trouble – but let’s just say the status quo has gone unexamined for such a long time, there’s a tendency to think they’re all the angels and good guys in need of protection. I guess the average person doesn’t know what kind of contracts they were offering workers in certain fields that now are a hard sell with terms moving in favor of producers. We at least have more freedom even with these tech giants, so as far as I’m concerned, I don’t really care what Bezos does, he’s done his good deed. So I’ll wait for the expose on the corporations whose entrenched power he is and has been challenging for some time to come out before I start wringing my hands, okay?

#7 Comment By Eric On September 19, 2017 @ 7:14 am

“For conservatives and libertarians wedded to the tenets of free market orthodoxy—or for Democrats dependent on campaign contributions from a donor class of Silicon Valley tycoons.”

“While the Democratic left—in an effort to rejuvenate its populist soul—has been at the front lines in the war against these modern-day robber barons.”

I love how even in a piece supposedly aimed at showing how this issue is non-partisan, partisanship is seeps forth as those liberals who agree with culling the monopolies must have some populist agenda or some other not-so-virtuous motif while the conservatives pushing for this are really virtuously wedded to free market principles and orthodoxy….

Rod Dreher is right that identity politics is killing us. He is wrong that the left is the only culprit.

#8 Comment By Richard H Caldwell On September 19, 2017 @ 7:30 am

Hear, hear! Any sober conservative, any defender of truly-free markets, should be deeply concerned by the re-emergence of market domination in entirely-new guises. Amazon, Google, Northrop Grumman, Wells-Fargo, Facebook, United Technologies, Citbank — the list goes on and on, seemingly forever.

The willful blindness of the SEC, DOJ, and FTC over the past 30 years has had predictable results — the blossoming of even more virulent strains of monopoly and anti-competitive behaviors. How can it possibly be good for the health of our economy to have rent-seeking become the dominant mode of profit?

And nothing will change until a consensus emerges across the political spectrum. May it be soon, please, may it be soon…

#9 Comment By LSJohn On September 19, 2017 @ 7:55 am

This criticism of Amazon’s approach to finding a new location appears to me to be a misdirected expression of concern about Amazon acquiring monopoly status. On its own merit, Amazon’s current offering to some city, county and state of a benefit is contingent only upon the ability of decision-makers there to properly calculate all the new revenue flows: $5 Billion in construction; employment taxes from 50,000 new employees; sales taxes collected on spending by 50,000 new employees; sales taxes collected from Amazon’s in-state customers. These are big numbers.

BTW, I wouldn’t have expected a conservative author to offer “reporters’ speculat[ion]” to buttress an argument.

Tax abatement is not a subsidy.

#10 Comment By Jon S On September 19, 2017 @ 8:07 am

I personally follow a brand of conservatism that is anti-big. Whether government or business. Historically conservatives were the prime backers against monopoly power. From T. Roosevelt through Eisenhower, Republicans stood at the forefront.

The “Free Market” is a lie foisted upon the unsuspecting by big business monopolists. Ceonservatives believe in a highly competitive capitalist market. Nothing is free.

#11 Comment By WorkingClass On September 19, 2017 @ 9:43 am

For free market utopians combinations in restraint of trade are success stories.

#12 Comment By WorkingClass On September 19, 2017 @ 9:51 am

mods

waiting for use.typekit.net…

is preventing me from using your site

Windows 10 and Firefox

#13 Comment By Howard Owens On September 19, 2017 @ 9:52 am

My libertarian case for anti-trust: We should oppose anything that hampers individual liberty. The concentration of power, whether it’s by the government or big corporations, hampers individual liberty. It restricts freedom of movement, limits the possibility of acquiring one’s own wealth (think, fewer opportunities for individuals to start successful small businesses), and limits the opportunities for dissent. Today, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are as much a threat to liberty as the Federal government.

Large trusts do not enhance free markets. They constrict markets and make free competition nearly impossible. Truly free markets open opportunities for the greatest number of makers.

#14 Comment By brians On September 19, 2017 @ 11:08 am

While the tech companies are clearly a threat to the little guy, they’ve still got nothing on the banks. I agree that we need to bust up some monopolies if we are going to restore a common good capitalism, but the banks are the place to start. Amazon and Google, for now, are still helping the little guy keep afloat. Facebook is just one more way to keep Narcissus at the pool.

#15 Comment By collin On September 19, 2017 @ 11:17 am

The issue of anti-trust monopoly against the tech giants, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple is basically how do they hurt consumers in the US? (Remember Robert Bork?) Or are they putting up significant barriers to entrants and competitors?

All four markets do not show much of this behavior today and breaking them does not make sense.

1) Amazon is well below Wal-Mart and Target in retail sales so it is not dominating the retail market. And Amazon is beating small players but the evil Black Box companies in the 1990s.
2) Facebook & Google – Aren’t there easy competitors here for consumers? It ain’t that hard to type Bing or Yahoo.
3) New entrants on tech is fairly easy and I believe the strong right wing are developing alternatives already.
4) In terms of Republicans and monopolies you have to go back to Roosevelt/Taft years. Reagan era did not have much of a problem with Oligopolies in the 1980s. (Although he did not stop Judge Greene on the breakup of AT&T although I suspect Reagan in 1982 did not have political capital to stop the decisions.)

#16 Comment By cka2nd On September 19, 2017 @ 11:57 am

Liberal and progressive publications have been beating the drum over “merger mania” and monopolization for at least the last 25 years, so yeah, it would be nice if conservatives and libertarians would get on board and start reviving their historical arguments against economic concentration. Frankly, it’s long past time.

And Amazon is starting to really screw over the little guys, according to a small business owner I know whose on-line sales are exclusively through Wall Street’s favorite retailer.

#17 Comment By TheIdiot On September 19, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

To revitalize our nation I would ban any and every non-manufacturing company from crossing state lines. Retailers that didn’t make their own stuff – gone. Also unions, hospitals, banks, restaurants, etc. etc. This would be a boom for local economies everywhere. While at the same time severely limit interstate commerce, pushing regulation back to the states where it belongs. And in so doing, reduce the need of DC to infiltrate our lives. Capitalism would thrive with reduced cronyism and federal intervention.

As if that would ever happen….. If we want this country to be for the people and not for the corporations, something has to be done.

#18 Comment By Artebud On September 19, 2017 @ 12:39 pm

Google is particularly bad for forcing users to use the Google play store on all android devices – same with Apple and the apple store on apple devices. Hence, all programs that you can access through tablets and smartphones are filtered through what big daddy Google or Apple think are suitable products for their customers – what the user might want, if the user wants differently, is irrelevant. Classic, glaringly obvious anti-trust issue.

#19 Comment By Captain P On September 19, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

“For conservatives and libertarians wedded to the tenets of free market orthodoxy . . . redefining the legal definition of monopoly and rekindling a bipartisan interest in antitrust enforcement are likely non-starters.”

The author overlooks the fact that crony capitalism — which is exactly what Amazon engages in by extracting hundreds of millions of dollars in tax benefits and other subsidies — is a major concern of libertarians and free-market conservatives. Once those people are convinced that monopolies are fueled by and engage in cronyism, it’s an easy step to get them to sign onto an antitrust platform.

Catholic social thought, distributism, and all the other non-mainstream conservative schools of thought are well and good, but the Chestertonian route is not the only conservative/libertarian basis to criticize monopolies.

#20 Comment By bt On September 19, 2017 @ 3:38 pm

“Tax abatement is not a subsidy”

What a preposterous statement. I pine for the good old days when coporations paid good wages and paid their share of taxes.

Now, it seems we are paying taxes to businesses, so they’ll be nice to us and not move the jobs off-shore.

Or we have Wisconsin paying Taiwanese Corporation Foxconn 3 BILLION to set up a factory there.

If you are a conservative this crap is wonderful on many levels. You get to give tax money to large and wealthy companies, and after having given that money away, you are spared the horror of spending it on schools, roads, infrastructure, or worst all of spending it on public employees. What a waste of tax money that would be – it would be very communistic to do that after all.

This is all a load of crap. These companies are extorting us, buying elections and legislatures, and then they have the balls to invert themselves to Ireland or sell themselves to an Indian tribe to avoid contributing to the host they are feeding off of.

#21 Comment By SB On September 19, 2017 @ 4:16 pm

A monopoly is only possible through gov’t coercion (see: Boston Rea Party & King George’s tea franchise; Ma Bell prior to the break up; oower companies; etc.) Things such as “Publc Service” Commissions, “Net Neutrality” & the like are further acts of coercon by the government after it has created a monopoly (see also cable companies).

“Eat my bread, do my bidding.”

The fundamental problem is lack of separation of economy & state, in the same way & for the same reasons there’s a separation of church & state. That conservatives are now calling for implementation of anti-trust laws is consistent with their hypocrisy as avowed defenders of freedom & capitalism. They. Are. Not.

Nor can they be as long as they hold to their Judeo-Christian ethics of self-sacrifice.

The anti-trust laws are vile & vicious (spurred, I might add, by a Republican Congressman back in the late 1800s & thru which another Repub (Teddy “Imperialist” Roosevelt) in which anyone in business can be prosecuted:

prices higher than the market = price gouging

lower = unfair competition

the same = collusion or price fixing

More here: [36]

“A ‘coercive monopoly’ is a business concern that can set its prices and production policies independent of the market, with immunity from competition, from the law of supply and demand. An economy dominated by such monopolies would be rigid and stagnant.

“The necessary precondition of a coercive monopoly is closed entry—the barring of all competing producers from a given field. This can be accomplished only by an act of government intervention, in the form of special regulations, subsidies, or franchises” (Ayn Rand; “Antitrust,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 6).

#22 Comment By Anna On September 19, 2017 @ 6:01 pm

Amazon is no friend of the little guy; Main street loses community and a tax base as well as small business, sellers give a massive cut of their sales $ to Amazon. Amazon is no friend of democracy; to the extent that an educated populace is important, Amazon’s attack on publishers has had a potentially chilling effect on our country. This is especially worrying in non-fiction; historically, publishers spend considerable effort to vet information, edit, and support authors during the writing period (which allows better research). Eroding the profits publishers make erodes the quality of publishing.

#23 Comment By GregR On September 19, 2017 @ 6:40 pm

SB says:

A monopoly is only possible through gov’t coercion

What complete and utter nonsense. It depends on the industry, but you don’t need government action to form a monopoly, you just need to be large enough to distort the market on your own.

US Steel is a perfect example of this. They didn’t need the government, if you tried to open a steel mill they would wait until you started production then go to your customers and offer to sell them the same product at half your price. Sue them and you might get some amount for interfering with a contract, but you still didn’t have any customers.

Keep trying to sell steel and they would just keep undercutting your price, to every customer you talked with. They were large enough that nothing you could do mattered. No one could get market share because no one could compete. USSteel simply ate losses until you went out of business then raised prices again.

Ma Bell did much the same. By leveraging their early lead due to patents rights they were able to build out a telephone system going before anyone else could even get started. In effect they had 25 years to amortize the initial investment in equipment. This made it almost impossible for anyone else to compete, because they would have needed to build matching infrastructure to ATT but pay for it when todays dollars.

It took government regulations and interference to break up both of these monopolies when the companies became too powerful, too big, and to capable of manipulating their markets to the detriment of the citizens.

It very well may be that Facebook and Google are already there.

#24 Comment By Nicolas On September 19, 2017 @ 7:04 pm

The Right is now grappling for the trophy of economic stupidity. I just finished a cross-country road trip which reminded me, as I considered the many competing options for my gas dollar, of the Left’s attacks on the Big Oil monopoly. Economic freedom has never had a reliable ally on the Right (as Hayek noted), but less now than in a long time.

#25 Comment By bt On September 19, 2017 @ 7:37 pm

“A monopoly is only possible through gov’t coercion”

What a preposterous statement.

#26 Comment By Jeff K On September 20, 2017 @ 9:41 am

GregR says:
September 19, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Regarding predatory, monopolistic behavior:

‘US Steel is a perfect example of this. They didn’t need the government, if you tried to open a steel mill they would wait until you started production then go to your customers and offer to sell them the same product at half your price. Sue them and you might get some amount for interfering with a contract, but you still didn’t have any customers.

Keep trying to sell steel and they would just keep undercutting your price, to every customer you talked with. They were large enough that nothing you could do mattered. No one could get market share because no one could compete. US Steel simply ate losses until you went out of business then raised prices again. ‘

Isn’t this EXACTLY what China does, along with other predatory behavior (such as requiring giving Chinese companies proprietary information for market access)?

I agree with Trump on very few things, but his posture with China is long overdue.

We need an aggressive anti-monopoly, pro-competition national agenda. No more crony capitalism! No more allowing Big Pharma the ability to pay generic drug producers not to make competitive products! The list of egregious business behaviors that we now consider ‘normal’ is appalling.

#27 Comment By Captain P On September 20, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

GregR- I’m not knowledgeable about the history of U.S. Steel, but I disagree with your contention that Ma Bell’s monopoly happened without government coercion. You mention in your comment that Bell achieved such early domination because of patents – patents ARE government coercion (the gov’t gives exclusive rights over a certain product or process).

We’re used to patents, but they are functionally a limited-time monopoly.

#28 Comment By Legacy American On September 20, 2017 @ 7:06 pm

It has taken 35 years, but finally the Right is beginning to understand: corporatism is definitely NOT political nor economic conservatism!

In 1995 I first used the phrase “corporate totalitarianism” to describe mergers/acquisitions, retail Big Boxism, and consequent decreased market competition, all of which threatened microeconomic entrepreneurism, product diversity, and a not-insignificant percentage of established US middle-class independent business owners. Two years later, I considered researching and writing a book addressing these topics with the proposed title “Corporate Totalitarianism: The Hypercapitalist Threat to Personal and Economic Freedom.” Time constraints were not my only barrier; I realized, sadly, that most Americans were not “ready” for such a book. Many seemed happy with Wal-Mart/Target, Starbucks, chain bookstores, and big boxes with the word “Depot” in their names, at least at first. Amazon was a newly-hatched bird of prey.
[37]

By 2003, I would tell anyone who would listen
that regardless of whether one is contemplating government, business, or especially the collusion of the two known as fascism, “the problem is centralized control.”

I have NEVER ordered from Amazon, and frankly do not understand the attraction of its bloated centralization and user surveillance. Convenience kills. . .our privacy, our freedom, and our economic diversity.

#29 Comment By Joe On September 20, 2017 @ 11:26 pm

Saw Newt on Fox the other day talking about these things, and he is of a similar mind. These things have become so integral to the economy in such a short period of time that antitrust, regulation as public utilities, and stricter privacy laws have to all be on the table. Certainly tax exemptions should go away immediately.

#30 Comment By Dai Alanye On September 21, 2017 @ 1:00 am

Who pays business taxes? Is it not the consumer? Tell me, then, why it makes sense (other than ease of collection) to have businesses be taxed?

It does, of course, render American business less competitive in the world. I suppose some consider that a worthwhile acheivement.

#31 Comment By Elitists Suck On September 21, 2017 @ 7:28 am

Do not leave out Apple.

The advent of a new $1,000 phone, when a phone should cost no more than $19.99 in 2017 (with a contract for $10 per month), is proof of old adages:
* A fool and his money are soon parted
* There is a sucker born every minute

Couple that with this:
“According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.”

from “Here’s how much Americans at every age have in their savings accounts” (www. cnbc. com/ 2016/10/03/ how-much-americans-at-every-age-have-in-their-savings-accounts.html)

#32 Comment By Richard Di Lorenzo On September 21, 2017 @ 10:25 am

One could argue that the sales tax situation which allows Amazon to sell products without said tax is what allows the Monopoly status which Amazon is pursuing. As Amazon hollows out main street and those younger people whose entry level jobs at department stores and the like are eliminated we all are complicit in that demise. I do find it troubling that Bezos has purchased the Washington Post to make sure that he will have a Media defendant for anything that the company does in future. Bezos makes the Railroad “Octopus” of earlier days look like “pikers.” Somehow, the likes of Amazon and Apple, have escaped the label of “big business” but at some point there will be a reaction of size.

#33 Comment By Laramie On September 21, 2017 @ 11:52 am

These issues are ripe for discussion, but I believe lumping Amazon, Facebook and Google together in one discussion of “monopolies” is too sweeping.

Google and Facebook have the ability to control thought and expression. They have search algorithms that can reveal or hide results. They can de-monetize thoughts and content they don’t like (YouTube; Instagram). They can ban users for expressing political thoughts they disfavor. They can shape thought by feeding you “news” and hiding other facts. Collectively, they control a majority of the online advertising market, which affects both advertisers and the online portion of traditional news media. And, they have abused their positions by manipulating, excluding and demonetizing content they don’t like. Put Facebook and Google in one category.

To me, the monopoly question for these two boils down to whether one believes the “network effects” associated with their respective platforms are too powerful to be broken without government intervention. “Network effects,” after all, is just another way of saying “monopoly.”

Amazon needs to be placed in a different category. They have platforms that influence thought and expression (Audible; book sales; Prime content), but they don’t really enjoy monopoly position in these areas. Instead, they are starting to acquire concentrated power in retail, particularly the distribution channels that retail depends on. I would put Amazon in an entirely separate category for analysis.

The discussion of crony capitalism at the beginning of the article really has no bearing on anything. It’s disgusting but not really much evidence of a monopoly. Companies play these games because cities and states let them. Amazon is just taking a cue from Tesla’s successful gigafactory bidding war. It would be irresponsible for them not to do so.

#34 Comment By mike green On September 21, 2017 @ 11:53 am

Read “Cornered” by Barry Lynn. The problem of monopoly exists across the economy. Too many examples to list here, sadly. But the biggest risks to our liberty and our economy are the monopolies in high tech and banking. Amazon may only control 1-2% of all retail sales, but they account for 60-70% of online sales. They have destroyed tens of thousands of good paying career path jobs over the past 20 years, replacing a tiny fraction of that number with sweatshop minimum wage warehouse jobs. The FTC enacted a flawed definition of monopoly that was only a problem if consumer prices rose. There are many other issues that matter beyond that one issue. The government used to take action to prohibit any company from controlling any more than 10% of a given market. That policy ensured wage growth, jobs growth, consumer choice, innovation. We need to reintroduce a policy of market share into our definition of monopoly, and act vigorously on it. The last time we did so, we broke up AT&T, which resulted in millions of jobs, new companies, ne wealth creation dizzying innovation and lower consumer prices. this should be a major platform plank of the Republican party in the years to come

#35 Comment By Laramie On September 21, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

“One could argue that the sales tax situation which allows Amazon to sell products without said tax is what allows the Monopoly status which Amazon is pursuing.”

That was a good argument 5 years ago. But, Amazon waived the white flag on tax collection. They now collect sales tax on behalf of the states where such taxes are due.

They didn’t do this out of charity. They decided it was a better strategy to get purchased goods into the hands of consumers quickly (2-day Prime shipping). To do this, they had to own the distribution, which meant a physical presence in nearly all states. This physical presence is what they had been avoiding. They relied on 3d parties for distribution, and this let them avoid collecting sales tax for so long. But, the sales tax angle is no longer an issue. More here if you care to check my facts: [38]

#36 Comment By Laramie On September 21, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

One last comment on these issues:

One way to approach the Google and Facebook monopolies, and the online industry as a whole, would be through the user agreement. These are the quasi-legal documents that no one reads, but which give Facebook the ability to monitory your location data on your iPhone at all times, which gives ownership of any content you post to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, which let Google search each and every email you send and receive and decide whether or not to turn data over in response to a government inquiry, which let these platforms aggregate and monetize data about you, whether you’re using their platforms or not.

User agreements have received scant little attention. Courts regularly throw out employment arbitration agreements that are too one-sided. Other manifestly unfair legal documents are regularly disregarded or rewritten when one side has too much economic leverage. There is significant precedent that could be brought to bear in this area.

#37 Comment By JH On September 21, 2017 @ 1:19 pm

The fact that Bezos et. al. are liberals drives conservatives crazy. “These liberals have too much power, lets break up their companies.” Geeze, hypocracy much? Fact is they invented a better mouse trap and were rewarded by the market, which is the most conservative of principals. Don’t like it, get to work inventing a better tech product.

The tax subsidy outrage is kind of a joke. State gov’s allow this to happen so your a fool if you don’t play the game.

#38 Comment By John Conrad On September 21, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

Jeff Bezos is not a liberal – liberals look out for us dumbells and make sure we get a fair shake.
He doesn’t want to pay taxes for the streets, utilities, and services that our taxes pay for. Remember Obama told us we didn’t do it by ourselves.
HE’s a greedy, self- serving opportunist Republican who can never be rich enough.

#39 Comment By ZGler On September 21, 2017 @ 5:41 pm

Our health care crisis is abetted by monopolistic practices on the past of insurance groups, hospital groups and big pharma. Patent law for drugs has been contorted by a huge amount of pharma lobbying which kills price competition there. See this Forbes article:

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#40 Comment By Mike On September 21, 2017 @ 8:30 pm

Amazon is clearly an important topic lately. In the past year or so, there have been more negative Amazon articles circulating than ever before.

Compare the political leaning of Amazon to that of Wal-Mart and then ask your self why the right never considered Wal-Mart a problem… The hypocrisy is clear.

#41 Comment By Winston On September 22, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

See also:
[40]
To Address Inequality, Let’s Take on Monopolies
When a few firms dominate the market, they have the power to charge consumers more and pay workers less.
Research & Commentary

#42 Comment By Waz On September 26, 2017 @ 2:18 pm

One way to take the monopolistic edge from Amazon would be to have them allocate certain percentage, say 20%, of the products offered on their website, to small businesses for free in order to avoid company breakup. Well crafted, such a measure would go a long way to restore equilibrium in the marketplace. The subsidies from tax payers would have to go too.