While Covid-19 has meant huge revenues for Amazon, it has also magnified the consequences of its monopoly power and galvanized calls for antitrust reforms. In this 30-minute interview on Canadian national radio, Stacy Mitchell talks about how to understand Amazon’s structural power and its consequences, and about the growing momentum in Congress to do something.
This is a company that dominates online shopping, that provides the backbone for much of the world’s internet and data storage, that is now shipping more packages than the U.S. Postal Service… I think the way to understand Amazon is that it’s an infrastructure company. Jeff Bezos’s goal is really to own the rail lines — the pipelines through which a growing share of our commerce, our information, and our services flow. And Amazon not only provides the infrastructure that other companies rely on; it also competes directly against them. That’s inherently a conflict of interest.
With the pandemic we could really see an extinction-level event of the businesses that line our streets and our neighbourhoods. And Amazon is very much looking to capitalize on this and seize even more market power.
This really goes to the more fundamental issue. We can talk about the importance of competition and the bullying in the marketplace. But, ultimately, the fear that I have is that we’re losing democracy. That the Congress is effectively run by corporations. That Amazon has a lot more power than the rest of us do combined, in shaping the future of the country.
We took care of the railroads by passing a law that said if you’re a railroad that’s all you get to do. You can’t have interests in any other companies. We should do the same with Amazon. And then I think, secondly, we need to think about that platform — the online shopping site. Is this a kind of public utility? Has this become so central to commerce that it deserves to have a little bit of regulatory oversight? Do we need to make sure that the platform is fair and neutral?
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