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How Big Is ‘Too Big?’

Ever since the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, there has always been this question of how big corporations should become and what constitutes a “monopoly.” It has become part of our American experience that too much power aggregated in the hands of too few is not good for our economy or our politics.

Quietly and without a lot of fanfare, a new “gigundous” company has become a very big part of our everyday lives. I see it every week when another package comes to our home wrapped either in plastic or cardboard. Because of it, we have even installed a larger mailbox. Its name is “Amazon.”

A recent article in the Atlantic Magazine written by Franklin Foer was an eye-opener for me. It is not just the retail component of Amazon which is large, it is their domination in other aspects of our economic life. They are the biggest owner of data storage and control about half of what is called “the cloud.” As to what it sells, this one company controls about 40% of all of the e-commerce in the country.

You have to give its founder, Jeff Bezos, some credit. He has now become the richest man in the world. You also have to hope that you don’t get in his way, or you might get crushed. With Amazon Prime two-day delivery direct from a warehouse, you have to feel sorry for retailers who are trying to compete while paying for store space and employing people in the local community.

Bezos also has a big interest in colonizing the human race in outer space. He contributes about $1 billion a year to a corporation which is dedicated to space exploration and colonization. As a youngster, he was a big fan of Star Trek and that has carried over into his life as an entrepreneur.

Sometimes his way is blocked as it was when some “progressives” stopped Amazon from building another headquarters in Queens. However, New York’s loss was Virginia’s gain, and the company ratcheted-up the building of a new, monstrous facility in Arlington. Amazon is also becoming a big contractor for the federal government and so it makes sense to be close to the Nation’s Capital.

Jeff Bezos has become a foil for President Trump, who doesn’t like the fact that he also owns the Washington Post, and the Post has given a lot of ink to the President’s various troubles. Yet, as far as we know, Bezos has not interfered in editorial policy at the paper and, under his watch, the news room has gone from 500 to over 850. Also, the newspaper business these days has a hard time making money, and so it is just a small and almost insignificant investment in the world of Jeff Bezos. Most of his power and wealth is generated by all of the other businesses he controls.

The power of Amazon is not the only “monopoly” issue out there. There are also companies like Google and Facebook. Each of these three companies is worth five to eight times the combined value of the big three automobile companies put together. Would we stand by and do nothing if all of the auto companies were under the control of one person or one board of directors?

I really don’t have an answer for any of this except to note that, up until now, the country has looked askance at monopoly control. The question is: “How does that policy apply in the new world of economic domination we are seeing today in the market place?”

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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