New media ballyhooer Douglas Rushkoff made waves this week. Citing an un-named friend who went hysterical about Amazon.com’s purchase of Whole Foods, he asserted that such “unease is widespread, and has raised new calls for breaking up Jeff Bezos’s impending monopoly by force.”*
The company has “surely,” he claimed, “reached too far.”
Apparently, serving customers exceptionally well is bad for business.
Yes, he almost totally ignored the pro-consumer benefits of Amazon. Had to — his case makes no sense when you factor in us consumers. He focused, instead, on Amazon’s success in terms of its recent “online and offline retail sales growth” and its control of 40 percent of cloud storage and streaming services.
He went on to spin a bizarre fantasy about how disruptive bigness is in business. His economically illiterate farrago reminds me of the sad case made against pre-antitrust Standard Oil, a company which, during the whole time of its growth prior to break-up, kept on producing more fuel at ever-decreasing prices.** Broken up because of . . . fears about how businesses change. And of bigness itself.
As long as consumers are being served, this reaction strikes me as paranoid. When businesses get big (and even near-monopolistic) and then cease to serve customers, they fail. While serving customers, there is no call for fretting over businesses that move from one success to another — which is what Rushkoff has the gall to worry about.
The call for Amazon’s break-up over-sells government and necessarily under-serves consumers.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Rushkoff’s piece in Fast Company was the first I heard of such a “call.” Rushkoff is the coiner of the term “media virus” and a sort of populist pusher of market skepticism.
** For the bizarre story of the Standard Oil case, and how it made no economic sense whatsoever, see Dominick T. Armentano, Antitrust: The Case for Repeal (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), p. 41-43, and Antitrust and Monopoly (Independent Institute, 1990), pp. 57-60.