Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Confronting Concentrated, Autocratic Economic Power Is What Democrats Used To Do

Guardian |  In threatening a single business because of some personal quarrel with its CEO – apparently in order to squeeze friendlier coverage out of a newspaper that the CEO happens to own – Donald Trump has clearly violated the basic rules of democratic government. But it is also important to remember that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Amazon has been the subject of critical reporting for a number of years; anyone who reads the Guardian or the New York Times knows about the company’s alarming labour practices and its imperial economic ambitions.

Yet some critics of the president took his tweets as a signal to rally round Amazon and its chief executive. They joked about how jealous Trump must be of Bezos’s billions. They fantasised about how Bezos might contrive to humiliate the president by buying still more media properties. They clucked over Trump’s stupidity on the matter of the postal service. They snickered at his inability to understand modern internet enterprises.

Given the chance to remind the public of American liberalism’s instinctive tendency to defend cyber-oligarchs like Bezos against the claims of those it sees as uncomprehending luddites, Team Liberal jumped at it.

Along the way, they gave us a vivid reminder of why modern liberalism keeps generating – and losing to – unbelievably awful antagonists such as Trump. Put it this way: yes, Trump hates Amazon, and its chief executive, and his newspaper the Washington Post. But Trump’s blustering animosity doesn’t make Amazon an admirable company. Nor does it make the Washington Post a temple of objectivity, untainted by the capital’s culture of influence-peddling.

Take the matter of the postal service’s contract with Amazon – the cause of so much self-assured guffawing among the know-better set. Guess what? The president’s complaint here is kind of legit. While it might be technically correct that the US postal service makes a “profit” on its current arrangement with Amazon, it would also be correct to say that it could easily be making a lot more.
If you care about the postal service workforce, maybe you too might want to show some concern about the question rather than brush it off as yet more idiocy from the comb-over caudillo.

Or take the larger question of Amazon’s overwhelming and unaccountable market power, which journalists and scholars have documented painstakingly and at great length – and yet which many commentators seem to have forgotten the instant Trump started bad-mouthing Bezos. “Amazon is the shining representative of a new golden age of monopoly,” is how the Atlantic journalist Franklin Foer put it in 2014, and what he said then is even truer today.