With corporate personhood enshrined in U.S. law, it’s time we extend the courtesy to that of celebrity. With that in mind, no corporation defines celebrity in our consumer-driven culture more than Amazon. More than a retailer, more than a brand, Amazon is a being, a leviathan, a monster. And with its pending purchase of Whole Foods, we’re reminded of precisely how imposing Amazon is, not only over our purchasing, but how we work and hopefully thrive in our corporate-dominated society.
— Bloomberg (@business) June 26, 2017
If you, like many Americans, are so seduced by Amazon’s prices and shopping convenience that you put on blinders to how rapidly it came to dominate many retail sectors, you probably want to click away at this point to your “one-click” daddy. But if you’re concerned about monopolistic domination in the American economy, let’s first get a wide view of Amazon’s growth and market share. According to the NY Times,
The company has established its level of dominance because of the failings of our current antitrust laws. To understand why, you first need to understand the scope of Amazon’s power. It has captured 43 percent of all internet retail sales in the United States, with half of all online shopping searches starting on Amazon. In 2016, it had over $63 billion in revenue from online sales in the United States — or more than the next 10 top online retailers combined. It controls 74 percent of e-book sales, is the largest seller of clothes online and is set to soon become the biggest apparel retailer in the country.
So the curious citizen may ask, aren’t antitrust laws in place to protect consumers, workers, and communities from such corporate concentration by one firm? Again, from the Times,
Antitrust laws, which were passed by Congress to prevent these kinds of concentrations of private power, have been largely reduced to a technical tool to keep prices low. The change in thinking traces back to the Chicago School revolution of the 1970s, which ushered in decades of mergers and consolidation.
As a point of clarification, the “Chicago School revolution” provided the precise ideological mechanisms to usher in the free-market, neoliberal era that’s decimated market regulations resulting four decades later in a decimated middle class via the decimation of New Deal economic policies. It’s certainly no matter of coincidence that Ayn Randian, Libertarian ideology governs much of the Silicon Valley ethos, where social Darwinism meets Revenge of the Nerds, resulting in a corporate Freddy Krueger mentality, punctuated by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
What began with WalMart and expanded under Amazon has been a boon to consumers but comes at the expense of workers and local economies. When price is the only determinant in every purchase, we lose essential values that were traditionally associated with retail purchases. Such values range from support of locally-owned businesses and living wages for local workers, which add up to nourishment of your local community.
Additionally, the absurdity of large-scale, corporate domination of the “small is beautiful” ethos of the natural foods movement and industry should bring the issue into sharper focus, and something that needs resistance as the local level. Hence, in order to preserve our local communities, it’s essential that we boycott the proposed Amazon-Whole Foods monster by supporting our local natural food stores, food co-ops, and farmers markets whenever possible. Further, it’s essential consumers resist Amazon’s overall cannibalization of our retail sector before they consume us via automation and artificial intelligence.
Part of the reason, I suspect, that consumers give Amazon a pass over its monopolization of the economy is because of its celebrity appeal. Only in our consumer-driven culture can brands become celebrities. With that in mind, Amazon, you’re being term limited.
Celebrities are the problem. #TermLimits4Celebs in the solution.