WASHINGTON, D.C. – There have been rumblings for a while now about the size and power of the big technology companies that seem to dominate our daily lives. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple – each unique, yet all lumped into a ‘Big Tech’ category the demonizing of which has become fashionable among some on the Right. After all, Facebook and Google have been accused of muzzling conservatives, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Trump-bashing liberal Washington Post, the ethos of Big Tech is undeniably to the Left.
But while justifiably complaining of politically motivated ‘de-platforming’ is one thing, Big Government moving in to scrutinize these Big Tech companies for being too successful is quite another, especially for Republicans. The U.S. Department of Justice recently opened an anti-trust probe into the ‘anti-competitive practices’ of these companies. The primary complaint, as it is with all anti-trust pushes, is that a given company is too good at competing against competitors.
Earlier this week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made comments related to Amazon specifically during an interview on CNBC that, if one takes economic liberty seriously, evokes a wince.
“I think if you look at Amazon, although there are certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States so there’s no question they’ve limited competition,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box. ”
“I think it’s very good that the attorney general is going to look into this. I think it’s an important issue and I look forward to him reporting back to the president and hearing his recommendations,” said Mnuchin. […]
“There’s areas where [Amazon] really hurt small businesses,” said Mnuchin.
In comparing Amazon to big-box retailer Walmart, Mnuchin said the companies’ competitive practices are similar and different.
“People had those concerns about Walmart. Walmart developed a business where small business could continue to compete with them,” he said. […]”
Since when, in what is supposed to be a capitalist society by consequence of the very unalienable rights to liberty (personal or economic) enshrined in our constitution, does a business owner have an obligation to protect their competitors?
For their part, Amazon responded to the recent comments and the DOJ probe by pointing out just how good for other businesses the transformative company has been.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are thriving with Amazon. Today, independent sellers make up more than 58% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totaling $160 billion in 2018. Amazon’s retail business competes in the worldwide market for retail sales and represents less than 1% of global retail and less than 4% of U.S. retail. And the vast majority of retail sales – 90% – still occur in brick-and-mortar stores according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”
Yet, even that response accepts the premise that a Big Business haters have set. We’re not talking about cronyism, in which business leverage the absolute power of the government to eliminate competition by force of regulation or special carve outs. The issue at hand is whether or not a business is guilty of some transgression because it out competes its would be peers. The premise that underlies anti-trust laws and anti-trust thinking is about as good an example of Big Government as there is.
Mnuchin, who used to have big roles at big brick-and-mortar retailers like Sears, suggests that consumers’ choice to use Amazon instead of visiting a Big Box Retailer somehow makes the former guilty. The only thing Amazon is truly guilty of is innovating and offering better products and services for lower prices.
Anyone who chooses to use Amazon to make purchases inherently realizes this.
Yet the DOJ says it is looking into how major online platforms have “achieved market power” and how their practices may have “reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”
This is so backward as to be laughable, if it didn’t represent such a dangerous mindset that has pervaded our government and many factions within our country for over 100 years.
Reduced competition? No, Amazon is merely better at competing. It has necessarily elevated competition in a real sense, setting the bar for others that much higher.
Stifled innovation? It’s rich to even entertain this claim concerning an innovative juggernaut like Amazon (or Apple, or Google, for that matter).
Harming consumers? Yeah, that seamless user experience, nearly unlimited choices, same day deliveries, and rock bottom prices Amazon offers really sticks it to consumers.
Despite their political leanings and demonstrable political “censorship” in many cases, these Big Tech companies deserve to be defended by Republicans and anyone else interested in limited government and liberty against these specious anti-trust actions . Though it’s been going on for a century, anti-trust is decidedly un-American in the sense that it gives government the power to specifically punish success, fueled by a sense of entitlement that is more akin to the collectivism of failed societies throughout history than the individualism that animates the American idea.
The liberty-minded should be more focused on breaking up Big Government and its weapons like anti-trust laws, than breaking up Big Tech companies because they are too good at innovating and competing, other issues with these companies notwithstanding.