Policymakers need to fight Amazon and corporate concentration

Published in monopoly, tech industry, big tech, concentrated corporate power, on Feb 11, 2021

Some personal notes from reading Matt Stoller's recent piece on Amazon in The Guardian:

  • Amazon is a giant trust corporation where the world's richest man presides over a million workers that make minimum wage.

  • Third party businesses sold 1 billion products through Amazon's marketplace, governed by Amazon's rules of commerce.

  • Amazon is it's own economy ran at public expense for private profit, encompassing cloud computing, retail, logistics, home security, mocrochip development, podcasting, prescription drug pricing, trucking, military contracting and more.

  • Amazon is a political institution designed to consolidate wealth and power.

  • Bezos located Amazon in Seattle to take advantage of a sales tax loophole that gave his bookseller a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar rivals

  • Bezos saw an opportunity to build a monopoly, as long as he offered low prices.

  • From Bezos to an early employee: "When you are small, someone else that is bigger can always come along and take away what you have."

  • One of Amazon's tactics that used to be illegal: pricing goods below cost to drive rivals out of business.

  • Amazon wasn't built to be an online bookstore it was built to be a utility, essential to commerce in America.

  • Amazon is a middleman in multiple sectors of the economy, setting the terms and conditions by which Americans trade. They aren't gaming the system, they are the system.

  • forces merchants who sell through its marketplace to use its logistics service

  • preferences its own products on platforms it controls, whether that’s Amazon Marketplace, Amazon Web Services, or its voice assistant line of business, Alexa

  • the Amazon retail team frequently lowered their selling price of our product and then ‘expected’ and ‘needed’ us to help pay for the lost margin

  • exploits and undermines workers and communities

  • Amazon gets public subsidies for its operations

  • Amazon is running an anti-union campaign in Alabama to stop its workers from exercising their collective bargaining rights

Laws matter

We live in a society with a regulatory framework that tolerates and even subsidizes Amazon's behavior. Feeble enforcement of antitrust laws and labor laws allows monopolists and financiers to consolidate markets, squeeze workers and devastate sectors of the economy, all while curbing entreuprenership to enrich Wall Street. Laws empowering corporations to force employees and merchants to sign arbitration agreements denying them access to courts further strips individuals of their freedoms in relation to powerful corporations.