This lawsuit is a testament to the power of a grassroots coalition determined to check Amazon’s dominance — and a test of whether the federal government has the power, and the political will, to rein in corporate monopoly power, writes Ron Knox in The Nation.
“The Federal Trade Commission’s monopoly lawsuit against Amazon—the public, largely unredacted version was finally released last week—is the country’s most consequential antitrust case in a generation, at least. The FTC’s action hits at the heart of how Amazon grows and maintains its dominance of online retail—in which it spins the taxes and tolls it forces on third-party sellers into vast profits that help fund the rest of the Amazon monopoly machine. If the lawsuit succeeds, it will almost surely mean lower prices and more options for online shoppers and sellers. It may also transform a company used by most Americans in a way that will democratize the online retail market and deliver real options and innovation to an increasingly crucial industry. At the moment, the lawsuit’s potential feels like the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s—a decision that unlocked fundamental changes to the way we work and communicate with each other.
“The lawsuit is also a strike against Amazon’s broader power. While the case focuses on the abuse of Amazon sellers and shoppers, there’s a tacit understanding that Amazon is an exploitation machine built to extract money, labor, and ideas from everything and everyone it touches, from the undignified conditions it forces upon its laborers, to its partnership with police to surveil our homes and neighborhoods. The lawsuit can help break down that power, too, shrinking Amazon’s ability, for example, to exploit its captured warehouse workforce or use its unlimited resources to sway governments to submit to its will. It’s a bold attempt to quash Amazon’s private power—an action with both democratic intent and a fundamentally democratic origin.
“Indeed, the genesis of this case happened far outside the halls of the FTC….”
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