We’ve been listening to Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for much of this blog’s existence. During that 15-year period, Amazon has become the tail that wags the dog, with Apple, Facebook, and Google competing to be the flea with the second-place trophy.
One rather wishes that a few of those delusional Republicans in mid-prattle about “competition” could explain how monopolies and free markets can co-exist. They can’t. Perhaps that’s why they’re so quiet — but it doesn’t have to be that way.
And the Democrats? Don’t get me started on their cowardice in the face of monopolistic entities like these.
Amazon Is a Private Government. Congress Needs to Step Up, by Stacy Mitchell (The Atlantic)
Reining in the tech giants will help restore American democracy.
… The hearing was one of the final steps in the subcommittee’s bipartisan, yearlong probe into whether Amazon and three other tech companies—Apple, Facebook, and Google—are abusing their market power to thwart competition and entrench their own dominance, and if so, what Congress should do about it. The committee is expected to release its report in early September, and it could well be damning. The report may call for regulating the tech giants’ behavior, splitting them up into smaller companies, or both.
Despite all of this, Amazon’s share price barely budged after the hearing, suggesting that Wall Street harbors little fear that anything will come of the investigation. The very next day, Amazon announced record profits … these developments illustrate the challenges facing lawmakers who want to rein in the U.S.-based tech titans. Even if they can put forward a convincing case that, for instance, Amazon is unfairly crushing small companies, most Americans can hardly imagine that the government will act, or even that it can.
The problem isn’t just that Amazon employs more lobbyists than the U.S. Senate has members. It’s that the machinery of government has been dysfunctional for so long that Americans forget it even exists. This is especially true when it comes to questions of how the economy is structured. Both political parties long ago abdicated their responsibility to be a check on the accumulation and the abuse of private power. Americans who believe this deference to big business is unwise have been conditioned to see ourselves as helpless.
For that reason, what happens next in the investigation is crucial. The committee’s work is that of a democracy rediscovering its capacity to determine how the economy should operate—and how to hold the powerful accountable to the law. Its ultimate outcome will speak to two of the most consequential economic questions Americans face. One is whether a handful of tech giants will continue to wield outsize power over our commerce and communications. The other is whether we’re still capable of governing ourselves.
The burden is on the subcommittee to show Americans that what Amazon and the other tech giants are doing is both wrong and harmful. Armed with witness statements and internal company documents, the subcommittee and its staff are framing an argument: Although these companies may still produce the occasional innovative product, they’re not nearly as inventive as they would have us believe. Rather, they have achieved their extraordinary reach through raw power. The tech giants have become gatekeepers, and they exploit that control to advance their own interests. At the hearing, the subcommittee members translated the sometimes-arcane language of antitrust law into words everyone understands. They talked of spying, stealing, and bullying.