Amazon Primary - Breaking Up Big Tech
March 8, 2019 8:35 AM   Subscribe

 
Sounds good to me.
posted by Fish Sauce at 8:39 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Enjoy your new Bing overlords.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:43 AM on March 8 [18 favorites]


Fuck Amazon, marry Google, kill Facebook.
posted by glonous keming at 8:45 AM on March 8 [68 favorites]


nationalize amazon, turn google over to an anarchosyndicalist collective, kill facebook.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:47 AM on March 8 [91 favorites]


Enjoy your new Bing overlords.

This plan suggests Google Search be spun off as a single independent entity. I can't fathom the degree of self-sabotage that would be required to reduce Search's utility to Bing levels, so... yeah, it really would be great for open competition to somehow make it worthwhile.
posted by lumensimus at 8:48 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


No please don't nationalize Amazon
posted by Melismata at 8:49 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


No please don't nationalize Amazon
posted by Melismata

Seriously. Isn’t the USPS bad enough?
posted by droplet at 8:52 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Amazon has destroyed so many jobs and livelihood and replaced them with cardboard boxes full of crap. I guess people can live in the boxes.
posted by boilermonster at 8:55 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Seriously. Isn’t the USPS bad enough?

That depends — will Congress continue trying to strangle the life out of the USPS?
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:55 AM on March 8 [76 favorites]


The USPS is downright amazing. Would that more organizations run with such efficiency as the USPS.

It'd work even better if the GOP would stop standing on their neck.
posted by explosion at 8:56 AM on March 8 [172 favorites]


I'm OK with this.
posted by tclark at 8:56 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


This plan suggests Google Search be spun off as a single independent entity.

Hi! Have you head the good news about our Lord and Savior DuckDuckGo?
posted by The Bellman at 8:56 AM on March 8 [17 favorites]


I don't think Warren could have picked three platforms more likely to help sabotage her campaign if she tried. Can't decide if that's seriously brave or Quixotic. If she gets close to the nomination, I predict we'll see stories in 2021 about how Google and Facebook quietly tweaked results / news feeds to promote unfavorable stories about her...

I have a lot of questions about how Google would fund its search business minus the ads business, but I certainly agree with some of the ideas about enforcing anti-trust and unwinding some of the mergers.
posted by jzb at 8:57 AM on March 8 [15 favorites]


Yeah I use DDG as my default in both desktop and mobile Safari and it's good.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:58 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


the amazon/whole foods merger is described as presenting an actionable threat of reduced competition. quick review of overview of antitrust laws suggests the antitrust concern is a merger the effect of which "may be substantially to lessen competition" per the clayton act.

i think i see the online retailer buying product-specific online retailer (e.g., zappos) as threatening reduced competition in the online retail market. i do not yet see how online retailer buying brick & mortar upscale grocery will reduce competition in either the online retail market or the brick & mortar upscale grocery market.

what am i missing?
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:59 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


On the argument this is how we should be thinking and this is a very good step: I don’t see how this prevents the cycle of anti-trust union busting followed by the wounded but still powerful corporations from just biding thier time and exploiting loopholes and buying politicians and lobbyists to get back all the power they temporality gave up?

You have to change the power structure, via nationalization, via worker control, via whatever or we’re just going to be stuck in this. Businesses are dictatorships unless they are controlled by thier workers.
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on March 8 [12 favorites]


Good grief. She is borderline insane. Why should she or the federal government have any say in how these companies operate?
posted by davidmsc at 9:01 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


oh and once we've nationalized amazon, converted google to a militant co-op, and fucked facebook, we should probably institute damnatio memoriae for twitter. may future generations never know that we ever let such a grievous error even briefly exist.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:01 AM on March 8 [20 favorites]


Also the retail portal of amazon’s should be folded into the postal service cause the postal service does the bulk of thier work and then they could be held accountable for thier business practices, unlike now, when they’re accountable to no one despite everyone in the US giving them money even if they never use the service.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 AM on March 8 [14 favorites]


Good grief. She is borderline insane. Why should she or the federal government have any say in how these companies operate?

Why should these companies have almost exclusive, anticompetitive say in how the world does business, annihilating competition at a whim?
posted by lumensimus at 9:03 AM on March 8 [80 favorites]


Seriously. Isn’t the USPS bad enough?

It's nowhere near as bad as UPS or FedEx for customer service. Seriously, have you ever dealt with UPS?
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 AM on March 8 [21 favorites]


Good grief. She is borderline insane. Why should she or the federal government have any say in how these companies operate?

Because one of the roles of the federal government is to encourage competition in markets by breaking up monopolies and prohibiting collusion and trusts?

Did you forget what government's role is in society, or are you one of the folks who straight-up believe government should be drowned by Norquist?
posted by explosion at 9:04 AM on March 8 [43 favorites]


Good grief. She is borderline insane. Why should she or the federal government have any say in how these companies operate?

Because the way these companies operate impacts the nation and the people living in it, for good or for ill; and thus it's the job of the government to represent the interests of the people and protect them from predatory corporations?

It's really not that hard to understand.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:05 AM on March 8 [40 favorites]


okay I'm going to dive into the USPS derail with my anecdata:

USPS is excellent everywhere except new york city. Outside NYC, postal service is hands-down more friendly, efficient, and reliable than fedex or ups could ever dream of being. This is true in rural areas, in suburbs, and in as far as I know every major city that isn't New York. But if you're in the five boroughs, you can expect USPS to reliably:
  • mangle every package
  • leave every package somewhere where it definitely will get stolen
  • respond to your complaints with shockingly detailed and plausible threats involving USPS employees kidnapping, boiling, and then devouring your children.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:09 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]


which as we all know is madness... boiling children leaches out all the nutrients.

You're supposed to drink the broth too, y'know.

posted by tclark at 9:14 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]


Microsoft fundamentally sucked at large scale networking (and arguably small scale networking) long before the internet even existed. To this day they still haven't gotten the rhythm of it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:15 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Enjoy your new Bing overlords.

Actually, I've taken to using Bing for searching when Google fails me. It's an especially good alternative on video and image searches. Not that Google isn't great at those, just that it has blind spots. And Google is well past its 'don't be evil' days. Viva le competition.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:18 AM on March 8 [5 favorites]


On the argument this is how we should be thinking and this is a very good step: I don’t see how this prevents the cycle of anti-trust union busting followed by the wounded but still powerful corporations from just biding thier time and exploiting loopholes and buying politicians and lobbyists to get back all the power they temporarily gave up?

I don't think it necessarily does, but I don't necessarily see a way to make nationalizing these services politically viable right now, given the pearl-clutching reactions huge swathes of the US have to nationalized services and the incredible commitment over decades the GOP has expressed to destroying and undercutting them. I do think giving antitrust regulators and investigators some actual fucking teeth might provide a good reminder as to why competition is good in a "free and fair marketplace", which also gives you good political ground to undercut the traditional conservative economic arguments if you know how to use it--which is what she's doing here by underlining the benefits of competition in the marketplace.

Implicitly, in this proposal, Warren is invoking American exceptionalism and using nationalization of these industries as a delightful barely-hidden threat, reminding the centralist reader that she could actually be advocating for a much more extreme solution than she actually is and contextualizing the proposal "maybe we could use regulations to make the free market free" in American history.

I think this is a very clever political tactic. Whether it's the best economic response, eh: I genuinely do not know whether antitrust legislation with some fucking teeth in it and some public gumption to hold it together is a better long-term goal than nationalization and getting some public gumption to respect our federal services (hi, USPS!). But in terms of getting this passed, if she can convince the feckless side of the Dems to hold the fucking line behind her? This is good. This is a beautifully spun proposal to re-invoke antitrust law.
posted by sciatrix at 9:21 AM on March 8 [13 favorites]


Why should she or the federal government have any say in how these companies operate?

As a system raw capitalism maximizes for profit, not progress or fairness and certainly not for human happiness.

Fun fact: the game of Monopoly is meant as a cautionary tale about unfettered capitalism, specifically how people with more resources can use those to squeeze the life out of everyone else.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:21 AM on March 8 [12 favorites]


At the end of the day, folks, this is a culture war we'll need to fight and win over the course of all our lives and probably the lives of our children, assuming any of us younger folks can ever afford to have any. Look how fast that knee-jerk pro-corporation blaming-federal-institutions-for-systemic-defunding but-what-about-the-global-megacorporation's-rights sentiment popped up in this thread right here.

At the end of the day, a private company does not exist to help you. It does not exist to do a job as well as it can be possibly done for the benefit of the consumer. Private companies exist to turn a profit. End of. You have to look at the incentives for action when you think about what kinds of organizations you want to be serving public institutions, and ask yourself what you think those incentives will drive.
posted by sciatrix at 9:26 AM on March 8 [18 favorites]


I didn't know we had bots on here...

Hey, we gotta have someone to feed us the straight lines! Jokes don't just grow on trees, ya know.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:26 AM on March 8 [9 favorites]


Enjoy your new Bing overlords.

You mean WeChat, right?
posted by FJT at 9:28 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


This is a beautifully spun proposal to re-invoke antitrust law.

It’s like how I feel about the proposed tax on million plus house buys here in NYC, it’s good and I support it, but it needs to be seen as a first step to something stronger and more comprehensive.
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 AM on March 8 [13 favorites]


davidmsc, I don't know your politics – but I assume that you're a capitalist.

Which, I assume, means that you believe that competition in a free market makes for a healthy economy.

Which makes me wonder why you're defending monopolies. Because a monopoly, by definition, smothers competition.

(Recognizing, of course, that "monopoly" vs. "not a monopoly" isn't a black-and-white thing. There are shades of gray.)

Unless you're arguing that Amazon, et. al aren't monopolies.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:29 AM on March 8 [9 favorites]


Wrote my reps to ask them to publicly support this. I'm fine with it being directly targeted to these specific branded identities, but there's huge value in simply moving the overton window back to where we can actually see monopolies for what they are in modern terms.
posted by odinsdream at 9:31 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


It’s like how I feel about the proposed tax on million plus house buys here in NYC, it’s good and I support it, but it needs to be seen as a first step to something stronger and more comprehensive.

Oh, absolutely. Agreed. But when we propose those things, it does help to wait until we've achieved step one and let skeptical people notice the benefits accruing both personally and within their social networks to propose the more drastically-perceived step. That way you accumulate support and make it even harder for the GOP to roll back changes and undermine support.

Best time to shore up labor protections is right now, when so many of us are hurting and remember their lack. I don't think there's a way to break the back of this cycle forever, but building up a shot at it on the backs of initiatives like this one is a pretty good way to try to do it. And I really like the specific platforming/network distinction she's drawn; it's simple to understand, and it's hard to imagine how it won't scale over time.
posted by sciatrix at 9:33 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


I don't have a landline anymore, and when the government broke up AT&T to the "Baby Bells", I was a child and not paying attention. Granted, we don't have a federal government like we did in the 70s-80s. I don't know how effective breaking up Ma Bell was in creating viable competition, or if it makes any difference anymore, given that many are on mobile only now. Mobile phone companies seem to be healthily competitive, or is that not true? Is there anything from the break up of Ma Bell that we could learn from and apply to breaking up these substantially larger companies?
posted by droplet at 9:40 AM on March 8


Microsoft fundamentally sucked at large scale networking (and arguably small scale networking) long before the internet even existed.

So we just need Google For Workgroups, then
posted by thelonius at 9:42 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]




Mobile phone companies seem to be healthily competitive

You mean, Verizon and AT&T??
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:47 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


It's a stupid move for her to threaten Amazon, which, outside of the MetaFilter bubble, is widely liked and trusted by the majority of Americans.

Despite what a few malcontents on MetaFilter think.
posted by JeffL at 9:48 AM on March 8 [10 favorites]


Unless you're arguing that Amazon, et. al aren't monopolies.

Amazon is not a monopoly.
posted by JeffL at 9:50 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Apple also has $245 billion in cash reserves, with basically no plan to spend it. That's absurd and needs to change too.
posted by schmod at 9:51 AM on March 8 [5 favorites]


The more I read about Elizabeth Warren and hear her policy proposals, the more I'm growing to love her and want to vote for her. (Though I'm still at Kamala #1.) No matter what happens, Warren is bringing things to the table and discussing them which will force other candidates (even Biden) to address the issue. And Warren has a solid background on economics and workers' rights.

Interesting Vox article by Timothy Lee: Is Ronald Reagan to blame for the decline of St. Louis? Some experts think so.
The growing economic gap between prosperous coastal cities and struggling cities in Middle America is often blamed on impersonal forces like globalization and technological progress. But some thinkers have started pointing to another culprit: little-noticed shifts in antitrust enforcement, beginning in the 1980s, that allowed a string of mega-mergers.
So, if this is correct, Warren might be speaking to curbing gentrification (because fewer people will be competing for the scarce and precious apartments or houses in oversubscribed "superstar cities") and even revive and "get the red out" of states like Ohio and Indiana (if we get good jobs there to revive their cities).

Yes, I shop at Amazon and everything, but it's not like other, smaller companies can't sell cool stuff and have it delivered. I don't think we're going back to the era of "you have to settle for what you can find in your area." (I'm still shuddering at the memory of suburban mall Waldenbooks and how slim their pickings were.) Warren is terrific, and has intelligent ideas, and I hope my local DSA endorses her.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:51 AM on March 8 [14 favorites]


Look how fast that knee-jerk pro-corporation blaming-federal-institutions-for-systemic-defunding but-what-about-the-global-megacorporation's-rights sentiment popped up in this thread right here.

I think this is a grave mischaracterization of what people's concerns are.

American culture teaches that

a) economic competition will result in the most efficient way to provide services and goods.
b) unfettered capitalism is the purest form of economic competition.

From that standpoint restricting capitalism seems really counterproductive.

The problem with this is that "b" is only true part of the time. If you have a lot of competitors they clearly will jostle and push until a good solution rises to the top. An unfortunate side effect of being at the top, however, is that you can gain the ability to put your competitors out of business not by having superior goods and services but rather by cut throat pricing and other financial moves.

IMHO that's an argument for forcing companies to stay lean and mean, and hence the desire to split them into smaller chunks.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:52 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Amazon is not a monopoly.

Not even in spheres where all competing versions of a product use AWS?
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:53 AM on March 8 [29 favorites]


Amazon is not a monopoly.

Lol ok. Check out this episode of Why Is This Happening and let us know if you still feel that way.

Actually, I think "monopoly" isn't a sufficient term for what Amazon is in our world now. It's something entirely worse than any prior understanding of the kind of power a company can have, and thus the harm it can cause.
posted by odinsdream at 9:57 AM on March 8 [24 favorites]


Well, yes, Tell Me No Lies. At the same time, b) has historically been a complete and utter lie, is currently a complete and utter lie, and will always be a complete and utter lie. It is bullshit. Just because American culture teaches it--and I agree with you, it does!--and many people sincerely believe it to be true does not mean that they are right about that concept.

Unfettered capitalism always turns eventually into the other "part of the time" you mention, given enough time for one competitor to pull ahead of the pack by a critical margin and start weeding out its competitors. The idea that poor old Amazon (or poor old Google, or poor old any-monopoly or oligopolic industry) is going to be undercut by basic regulations--or that regulations don't exist to level the playing field and make competition possible!--is, I am sorry, bullshit. It's bullshit that a lot of people sincerely believe on a really deep level, bullshit that is written very deep into American culture, but it's not true. And I think that as a culture we need to start really thinking about who has told so many of us that it is true and start weighing our evidence for ourselves.
posted by sciatrix at 10:01 AM on March 8 [9 favorites]


Would that more organizations run with such efficiency as the USPS.

HAAAAAAAAA.

You want to know why more organizations don't do that? Because they wouldn't be around if they did.

I know a guy who spent a couple consulting projects deeply inbedded with the USPS in their core operations centers, including the largest postal facility in the world in Seacaucus NJ. They were implementing an RFID-enabled Yard Management Solution, among a number of other things. Some of the project highlights - the implementation team kept a pin-up board of cell phone photos taken of USPS workers full on sleeping in baskets of mail. Not like 1 worker, a few times. Many different employees, often. A partner who came through the war room at one point made them take it down.

Another highlight were the tractor trucks that were used to move trailers full of mail around the massive yard. In the winter, the drivers didn't like coming in to a cold truck in the morning. Their solution? Leave the truck running, use the spare key to lock it, and come back in the AM to a toasty truck that had been burning gas all night.

I should say that you probably don't want to get that guy started on the inefficiencies of the USPS.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:01 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Not even in spheres where all competing versions of a product use AWS?
Azure, Google App Engine, Digital Ocean, Rackspace.....Competition is pretty healthy.
posted by zabuni at 10:02 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Amazon is more like a chaebol, except instead of being a fully diversified company that mines the ore, turns it into steel, makes cars from it and sells them, it's purely a middleman. It wants to sit in the middle of all retail transactions (whether or not people are buying products by Amazon or even from Amazon) and in the middle of all data activity, to the extent it is used as a data service by some of its main competitors in the large scale data industry.
posted by at by at 10:02 AM on March 8 [11 favorites]


Lol ok. Check out this episode of Why Is This Happening and let us know if you still feel that way.

LOL all you want. They don't meet the definition of monopoly, and in fact don't come close.
posted by JeffL at 10:03 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Anyway, Elizabeth Warren is simply displaying traditional Republican values.
posted by at by at 10:06 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


Hard agree with everything in the post from Warren. Listen. The internet has gotten smaller over the past decade plus when it should be getting bigger. That's thanks in no small part to the commercial focus and dominance of a handful of companies. And yes, I'm happy to see Apple included in this.

Where we are is, in short, what happens when regulators snooze. Maybe they're not technical monopolies, but the dominance of these companies is nearly impossible to deny. When we have long essays and big think pieces about how hard it is to break up with companies in order to use technology, that demonstrates a dangerous relationship, one that must be addressed by a competent government.

I don't see Warren's plan as overbearing, which is a natural fear for an unregulated marketplace (ie, the pendulum swings fully back the other way). This is one of the more sophisticated tech-focused proposals I've seen in a while from a major candidate. Kudos to Warren for this.
posted by hijinx at 10:07 AM on March 8 [14 favorites]


Amazon is better understood as a Monopsony
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 AM on March 8 [15 favorites]


Azure, Google App Engine, Digital Ocean, Rackspace.....Competition is pretty healthy.

“It is particularly notable that growth at AWS has actually accelerated despite its scale. The rapid growth of Microsoft, Google and Alibaba is not causing any drop-off in AWS market share.”

I'd say they're still closer to monopoly status than healthy competition status.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:08 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I should say that you probably don't want to get that guy started on the inefficiencies of the USPS.

Probably because he's an unreliable private sector narrator presenting the actions of a few public sector employees, completely context-free, as representative of an organization that employs almost half a million people? When it comes to actual operations efficiency, USPS blows UPS et al out of the water, and has done so consistently for years, if not decades.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:09 AM on March 8 [46 favorites]


This is my preferred candidate for now, but I do think this particular statement, targeted towards these companies is not going to resonate with people outside of the DSA set. davidmsc's reaction is what I would expect from the general American public to this proposition. That being said, it's going to be amusing to see the whiplash from conservatives that were complaining about being stifled by the dominance of these companies defending that dominance to curry favor with the general public.
posted by Selena777 at 10:09 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


LOL all you want. They don't meet the definition of monopoly, and in fact don't come close.

That's true! The problem is that the current definition of monopoly is insufficient. Amazon has a critical, but not monopolistic, market share across a staggering number of verticals, and more to the point is able to integrate them through stuff like Prime membership, which gives it leverage that far outweighs its market share.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:09 AM on March 8 [9 favorites]


I cut the big five tech providers from my life. It was hell.

I know this article was linked on Mefi before, but it's relevant to this discussion. The tldr is that the author only manages it because she has a social network that provides her with specialized replacements. The average person who has a job that requires the web could not do it.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:13 AM on March 8 [11 favorites]


I’m always careful about speaking for the “generic American” cause the average American works in retail or food service and makes 35k or less a year.
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on March 8 [8 favorites]


Man, I wish I made $35,000. That'd be a substantial pay raise.
posted by sciatrix at 10:14 AM on March 8 [6 favorites]


ikr?
posted by glonous keming at 10:17 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


I’m always careful about speaking for the “generic American” cause the average American works in retail or food service and makes 35k or less a year.

and is from New Haven, CT.
posted by entropone at 10:17 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


It's a stupid move for her to threaten Amazon, which, outside of the MetaFilter bubble, is widely liked and trusted by the majority of Americans.

Despite what a few malcontents on MetaFilter think.


Setting aside for a moment that even the author of that link doesn't say anything like "Amazon is widely liked and trusted by the majority of Americans," and actually questions the findings, my question is: And? I mean, Bill Cosby used to be widely liked and trusted, but that doesn't mean either that he's still seen that way, or that he shouldn't have been held responsible for his actions. And that's just guy in several points in his life. Amazon abuses thousands of people every day.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:21 AM on March 8 [11 favorites]


“Average” is always going to guve odd values for unevenly distributed things like income, median may be more useful.
posted by Artw at 10:22 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


That being said, it's going to be amusing to see the whiplash from conservatives that were complaining about being stifled by the dominance of these companies defending that dominance to curry favor with the general public.

Actually, my thought was it was going to be amusing to see all the ways tech companies and executives will be friendlier with conservatives and Republicans.

No wait. That's not amusing at all.
posted by FJT at 10:24 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Semantics of the definition of a monopoly not withstanding (I mean, that definition was likely created by other members of the oligarchy at the time that were upset about not getting a piece of a specific pie, were they not?), what's the quote? Something about wanting corporations to be just the right size that they can be taken out back and strangled if need be?

Actually, my thought was it was going to be amusing to see all the ways tech companies and executives will be friendlier with conservatives and Republicans.

No wait. That's not amusing at all.


Being a hostage is the worst :(
posted by avalonian at 10:26 AM on March 8 [4 favorites]


Actually, my thought was it was going to be amusing to see all the ways tech companies and executives will be friendlier with conservatives and Republicans.

At this point I don’t believe it is even possible. Tech CEOs range from right leaning to outright fascist and in terms of the actions of tech companies they’ve been huge boosters for the right. We have Trump because of these people.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on March 8 [7 favorites]


When it comes to actual operations efficiency, USPS blows UPS et al out of the water, and has done so consistently for years, if not decades.

Yeah, you know, minus the fact that the USPS has been propped up by federal funds to the tune of billions every year for the last decade or so. They haven't had a positive net income since the early 2000s.

But sure, yeah, they blow these publicly traded companies out of the water.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:36 AM on March 8


There, there. It's okay for services that benefit the public good to be supported by public funds.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:38 AM on March 8 [49 favorites]


Um, people aren’t arguing that the USPS is efficient because it makes a profit. It’s a public service whose purpose is to deliver mail. You can drop a letter in a mailbox in Maine and it’ll be in California in 3 days. A private company would charge you a hell of a lot more for that than the USPS does—because maximizing shareholder value is not their purpose.
posted by Automocar at 10:40 AM on March 8 [56 favorites]


The post-office is not a business, it shouldn't have to be self-supporting any more than a transit system or library should.
posted by octothorpe at 10:41 AM on March 8 [48 favorites]


the fact that the USPS has been propped up by federal funds to the tune of billions every year for the last decade or so.

Even discounting the existence of the internet Big Tech is in reicept of huge public subsidies.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on March 8 [15 favorites]


Yeah, you know, minus the fact that the USPS has been propped up by federal funds to the tune of billions every year for the last decade or so. They haven't had a positive net income since the early 2000s.

Apart from what others have said, most of those losses are attributable to making sure postal employees' health care and retirement payouts are funded. Considering that their unofficial motto is "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," I think that's a fair trade for the "inefficiencies" that one of the biggest mouthpieces of the obscenely wealthy tries to make them out to be.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:47 AM on March 8 [12 favorites]


also when talking about this issue we have to consider the burden Amazon is putting on the postal system and its workers.
posted by JimBennett at 10:48 AM on March 8 [15 favorites]


Yeah, you know, minus the fact that the USPS has been propped up by federal funds to the tune of billions every year for the last decade or so. They haven't had a positive net income since the early 2000s.

But sure, yeah, they blow these publicly traded companies out of the water.


See, that's the thing I keep pointing out as fundamentally wrong with the way Americans approach these problems, and that's what I was talking about upthread when I talked about incentives for our services and institutions.

Is the goal we want for the service to make a profit? If it's a privately owned publicly traded company, well done! That's the goal for these kinds of organizations. That's why they exist.

Is the goal we want for the service to be accessible to the greatest variety of people?

Is the goal we want for the service to bring the most public good to the most people?

I mean, the people are paying for it, if it's a federal institution. We have to think about these questions when we are asking whether or not a given institution should be privately or publicly run. And the failure to ask that question is the biggest thing that has gotten us where we are.

It's time to start asking questions about what we want. The implicit assumption you are making is an assumption about what we, the people, want out of our federally run institutions. It is an assumption that I think we need to, collectively, wage bloody war upon, because it is an assumption that acts like a catheter to allow the wealthy to suck more and more overall economic prosperity into their engorged mouths.
posted by sciatrix at 10:49 AM on March 8 [35 favorites]


so what's Warren gonna do about the USPS, huh? obviously this is a step in the right direction but if her plan doesn't address the USP--

wait I'm lost
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:50 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Despite what a few malcontents on MetaFilter think.

if i am a malcontent for actually giving a shit about worker's rights, fair elections, and the privacy of our citizens, things which amazon, facebook, and google don't give a goddamn about and in fact in some cases actively oppose - well then i'd rather be a malcontent than whatever the hell the other option is.
posted by JimBennett at 10:52 AM on March 8 [42 favorites]


but what if the usps isn't profitable mew mew mew

what if the big megacorporations hear that someone's planning to re-invoke antitrust law and they oppose it

Suppose they were opposed to us—opposed to you and me! What would be left for us to do—except to cease to be?
posted by sciatrix at 10:53 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I don't necessarily see a way to make nationalizing these services politically viable right now

We don't nationalize utilities in the US, we regulate them. I think the danger in nationalizing, say, Google is that potential competition really does drive their development of better and better search technology, as it does for its competitors. Part of the reason it's a near monopoly is that it performs very well for its main consumer function. That it makes its money from secondary functions like providing advertising doesn't obviate that fact.

Nationalizing a company would take away the need to make a profit and there's a good chance of it slipping into mediocrity. Regulating search engine providers to ensure that they function as a common good and respect privacy of users would be the way to go, in my opinion. Such regulation could enforce transparency as well as provide users a court of appeals.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:54 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Stiiiiill waiting for someone to convincingly explain how "run it like a business" isn't inherently one of the least efficient ways to run anything that isn't a business.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:57 AM on March 8 [29 favorites]


Some of the project highlights - the implementation team kept a pin-up board of cell phone photos taken of USPS workers full on sleeping in baskets of mail. Not like 1 worker, a few times. Many different employees, often.

And yet, in spite of these shocking anecdotes, whenever I put a letter in the mail, it arrives at the destination in a few days. Every time! The system works! My anecdotes trump your anecdotes, hahaha!
posted by straight at 11:02 AM on March 8 [25 favorites]


That's true! The problem is that the current definition of monopoly is insufficient. Amazon has a critical, but not monopolistic, market share across a staggering number of verticals, and more to the point is able to integrate them through stuff like Prime membership, which gives it leverage that far outweighs its market share.

Right! Consider if you're a small business and you invent Cool Doodad. You want to sell it online. Amazon Marketplace is pretty much the only decent way to reach buyers, and AWS is how you deliver your web presence.

After a few months of really robust sales you start to see a sharp decline because Amazon has gone over to your industrial manufacturers, stolen your product design, assigned defensive patent lawyers to your product in case you try to make a fuss, and is now selling your thing in AmazonBasics. You're forced to close. They were able to poach your sales because they ran all the analytics on your business. This isn't even a *conceivable threat* in the time when 'monopoly' gained a legal definition in the cases of like, railroads and phone companies, and that's just *one* of the issues with how Amazon operates in our world.
posted by odinsdream at 11:03 AM on March 8 [39 favorites]


the implementation team kept a pin-up board of cell phone photos taken of USPS workers full on sleeping in baskets of mail. Not like 1 worker, a few times. Many different employees, often.

So they're working so hard that they're falling asleep on the job? You can take that a few different ways, and seeing that the average office worker is productive for about 3/8 of their day, it doesn't seem wildly unusual.

I sell stuff online for a living, and use USPS for about 98% of my shipping. Of my stuff, they lose maybe one package out of a thousand. I think they're great, and will defend them to pretty much anyone.
posted by Slinga at 11:12 AM on March 8 [20 favorites]


> We don't nationalize utilities in the US, we regulate them.

This is not true.

Remember the enron crisis back at the start of this benighted millennium? Remember how the privately-owned utilities all got wrapped up in a massive market-manipulation scam that resulted in blackouts across the state of California?

Los Angeles didn't get blackouts.

You know why Los Angeles didn't get blackouts? Because their power comes from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, a government-owned public utility.

Control over necessary utilities — power, water, internet service, mail, package delivery, roads, rails, and so forth — must be placed in the hands of democratically elected officials rather than private industrialists, because otherwise the private industrialists will turn us upside down and shake until every last penny falls out of our pockets.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:15 AM on March 8 [36 favorites]


Is there a viable argument that Facebook is a utility?
posted by Selena777 at 11:17 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I guess you could argue that Facebook is a utility, but I think it's more useful to argue that it's a scourge.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:18 AM on March 8 [16 favorites]


> Nationalizing a company would take away the need to make a profit and there's a good chance of it slipping into mediocrity.

Nationalizing a company alleviates the demand to produce a profit for private individuals and thereby allows the company to provide services beyond the (mediocre) level that maximizes profit. It makes the company responsive to officials elected by the people who use those services, rather than to the private individuals whose interests are in providing the minimal and inefficient service that profit maximization demands.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:21 AM on March 8 [9 favorites]


Yeah, you know, minus the fact that the USPS has been propped up by federal funds to the tune of billions every year for the last decade or so. They haven't had a positive net income since the early 2000s.

Because the Republicans have put a boat anchor around the neck of the USPS in the form of a requirement to fully fund their pension obligations decades in advance.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:22 AM on March 8 [32 favorites]


You know why Los Angeles didn't get blackouts? Because their power comes from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, a government-owned public utility.

Well, that's more like "urbanizing" than nationalizing. ;) I wasn't saying that it doesn't make sense to nationalize some utilities, just that for a rapidly evolving utility like a search engine, competition might be a good lever to maintain the technological pace and extract all the good out of the infrastructure. Proof is in the pudding, though.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:24 AM on March 8


It makes the company responsive to officials elected by the people who use those services, rather than to the private individuals whose interests are in providing the minimal and inefficient service that profit maximization demands.

Yes, ideally that's true, but with the "NO NU TACKSUS" guys running around trying to squeeze down funding for government services, you've got a challenge in that department. Our streets are not as well plowed as they could (and used to) be with adequate funding, but the pressure to keep property taxes low has slowly eroded the city's capacity to supply even minimally acceptable service.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:27 AM on March 8


This is an interesting move, politically.

It connects with rising popular anxiety about Silicon Valley.

It's daring in that it attacks some very wealthy, powerful, and occasionally beloved companies... but it also connects with anti-Silicon Valley thinking within the rest of the 1% world.

Note, too, the shout-out to the Progressive movement of a century ago.
posted by doctornemo at 11:29 AM on March 8


It's time to start asking questions about what we want. The implicit assumption you are making is an assumption about what we, the people, want out of our federally run institutions. It is an assumption that I think we need to, collectively, wage bloody war upon

Damn right. The infestation of the logic of capitalism into every sector really is appallingly foolish. There's just a fundamental mismatch between the quantitative information that markets are ideal for managing ("how many TVs should a society manufacture, and how should we design them?" is are great questions for a market driven system to answer, because we can get pretty accurate answers just using the quantitative data generated by the operation of the market itself) and the need for reliance on qualitative data when answering the sort of questions raised in the delivery of public goods.

To illustrate my point, I work for a nonprofit and do housing work primarily funded by legal aid. I often wonder what precisely the point is, when the limited nature of the resources I am paid to squabble about (homes) makes the whole thing sort of a zero sum game. But I do have an answer to my own question: lawyers usually think of themselves as being in the business of serving their clients, but that's not really our role when our industry (the industry of "justice", I suppose, to use a laughably inaccurate description of what is delivered by many courts) is considered as a societal good. What we're meant to be delivering to society by doing our jobs well isn't really the wins for our clients, that's just the micro manifestation of the real product; rather it's a system of regulation of the behaviour of individuals, private companies entities and government, which is impartial, insightful and transparent. The problem with trying to produce that kind of good based on market systems is that markets just don't produce or react to the kind of data that can address the question of what impartiality in the judicial system looks like. So there can be no market incentives for the kind of behaviour that produces those results (and wow does it show sometimes!) An injection of qualitative data is needed; regulation, or a public subsidy like legal aid, is one way to achieve this while preserving useful aspects of market systems, because it makes our qualitative societal choices manifest in ways that markets can react to. The problem is that the legal aid system has increasingly been organised on market principles, focusing on who can deliver the most work for the least money. But justice, the thing we're actually trying to deliver, isn't like that. You can't get more justice by increasing productivity, you can only get it by focusing on quality, in both main senses of the word.

Economic systems are just a form of information management technology: we can redesign them as we choose, and we shouldn't assume the one we happen to be using right now is perfect, nor that it can sensibly be applied in all contexts.
posted by howfar at 11:31 AM on March 8 [9 favorites]


We could always just turn them into "Public-Private Partnerships" and have the worst of both worlds!
posted by aspersioncast at 11:38 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


Because the Republicans have put a boat anchor around the neck of the USPS in the form of a requirement to fully fund their pension obligations decades in advance.

We thought it was impossible to get anything we wanted shipped to our doorstep for free in two days, when all this time the only thing we needed was postal workers with no pensions, no health care, no union wages, and no bathroom breaks.
posted by straight at 12:09 PM on March 8 [15 favorites]


I don't understand the main point of the piece. My supermarket offers its no name brand products. So the superficial argument that Amazon or Apple have a conflict of interest makes zero sense. Maybe the App store is a problem, but that particular argument is incomplete and thus wrong.

If the argument is that companies can't operate in too many markets because vertical/horizontal integration can cause problems okay maybe. Like App store and Macs shouldn't be from the same company. The problem is how do you ascertain the social harm of that using theory and evidence.
posted by polymodus at 12:18 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I think it may be a poor tactic in a presidential run.

Amazon is an excellent tool for the enrichment of Jeff Bezos at the expense of Amazon employees and local businesses. Would someone please recommend useful alternatives? I would especially like to be able to search for a list of used books and optimize the shipping by getting them from as few sellers as possible. I often don't care if it's going to take a year to get it; the to-be-read stack is massive.

Google is pretty good at what they do, and should spin off businesses. It's just not safe to have an infobusiness that huge; this also applies to Amazon's AWS.

Facebook is a hot mess. Zuck, stop hiding the way it works; let users have the opportunity to rank what and who they want to see. You'll still sell tons of ads.

She left out Apple, sitting on massive piles of cash, like Smaug.

In all cases, information aggregators should have to disclose to users what information they hold and where they sell it. Yeah, right. The current administration is blindly, blandly, dangerously pro-business. Regulation and unions (should) happen for a reason.
posted by theora55 at 12:26 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I shipped gifts to Hawaii yesterday. Book rate, easy-peasy, might take quite a while, but cheap. Stuff that fit in the priority mail box will get there in a couple days, cheap. The item too large for a priority box, that didn't weigh much? I should have bought and shipped via amazon, and it may take as much as a month to arrive.
posted by theora55 at 12:28 PM on March 8


Why America's Post Office Should Be Privatised (hint: not for the reasons Trump wants)
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:30 PM on March 8


I don't think Warren could have picked three platforms more likely to help sabotage her campaign if she tried.

Yeah, good luck winning the nomination without California, Washington, New York, and Texas.

You know all those people making you complain about housing being too expensive? Many of them work for these companies. And instead of buying a house this year and the next, they'll just put that large amount of money to work making sure this doesn't happen.
posted by sideshow at 12:41 PM on March 8


Why America's Post Office Should Be Privatised (hint: not for the reasons Trump wants)

Well, you're certainly consistent, I'll give you that. Also, the article is paywalled, and nothing in the visible part comes even close to a rebuttal to what people have said here.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:43 PM on March 8 [14 favorites]


You know all those people making you complain about housing being too expensive? Many of them work for these companies. And instead of buying a house this year and the next, they'll just put that large amount of money to work making sure this doesn't happen.

Many of them already are. Meanwhile, the vast majority that is the rest of their employees, the ones sweating to death in warehouses or working 100-hour work weeks to make 50k a year or forced to watch bigoted propaganda, are probably cheering her on.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:46 PM on March 8 [10 favorites]


Yeah, you know, minus the fact that the USPS has been propped up by federal funds to the tune of billions every year for the last decade or so.

Amazon is the recent recipient of a $10B contract to provide cloud services for the Pentagon (search on the term "JEDI", short for "Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure"). This is in addition to the $600M it receives for providing similar services to the CIA.

Like any Citizen, I hate waiting in line at the post office, but I suspect we're lucky that we have the USPS in the form it is in, as libertarian parasites keep looking at ways to starve it, kill it, and privatize what's left of the rotting corpse.

The private ownership of the commons that Eisenhower warned us about in the 1950s is big, vast, and directs a great deal of public and not-so-public policy that funnels your tax dollars to for-profit entities — including Amazon, but many others, as well.

As public service after service gets privatized or otherwise integrated into public-private "partnerships", it enriches shareholders who represent a very small portion of society. A military contractor like Lockheed Martin gets toll road contracts, and more roads get tolled as infrastructure budgets get starved. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority owns Chicago's parking system more or less in perpetuity, and rates go up. Security companies take over police and prison contracts, and accountability drops. Mortgage underwriting ties government and private banking together to the extent that social collapse becomes a real risk, as was the case in the 2008 financial crash.

Attempts to regulate private companies are met with charge after charge of "socialism", from entities who are themselves the recipients of public largesse, either in the form of tax breaks, favorable patent and policy legislation, multi-year-multi-billion dollar contracts, and so on. Companies silently integrate with government to become too big to fail and too important to regulate.

Recent attempts to enforce regulations seem to fail badly. Ma Bell was broken up, only to mutate into a hydra-like beast in the form of AT&T, Verizon, et al, which now dominate most communication systems and whose lobbyists have successfully constructed laws to maintain dominance and profitability, even where those laws cause active harm to society. The US government tried to break up Microsoft, and today MSFT remains one of the richest companies in the world. Facebook sells ad space to autocratic governments around the world and Zuckerberg can't be bothered to show up at a congressional hearing. Trump identifies a tech CEO with the name of his employer, and it is treated as a joke as opposed to a signal of what kind of identity humans will have in future society.

I wish Senator Warren well, I really do, and if she somehow manages to fall up into the general election, I'd vote for her just for fighting the good fight against Wells Fargo. But she is up against a vast organism-like entity that has been growing since the trading companies of the 1600s, and it will likely eat her up and swallow her whole, along with the rest of the world.

Enjoy the USPS while it lasts.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:47 PM on March 8 [16 favorites]


Blaming those platforms for campaign sabotage would just be an easy scapegoat. She’s coming out of the gate weak in the polls, even with national name recognition. This won’t help her unless her primary strategy is to siphon voters inclined towards Bernie.
posted by Selena777 at 12:53 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Some background reading: How to Fight Amazon (Before You Turn 29)
Lina Khan has a novel theory about monopolies—and her sights are set squarely on the company.


Short version: Beginning in the late 70's, the mainstream view was that concentrated market power generally benefited consumers because large organizations are more efficient, and those companies wouldn't price gouge because they were scared of drawing new entrants into the market. The new antitrust movement takes a larger perspective: "When a company has such power, ...it will almost inevitably wield that power far and wide, distorting not just the market itself, but the whole of American life."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:54 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]


As long as the big, famous companies like Google, Apple, Amazon ... pay about 2 % in taxes they should be considered publicly subsidized, says me. This is part of the explanation of their success. They are in fact supported by the public, and by all their smaller competitors, who are not able to move their profits to international tax havens.
posted by Termite at 1:19 PM on March 8 [17 favorites]


You know all those people making you complain about housing being too expensive? Many of them work for these companies. And instead of buying a house this year and the next, they'll just put that large amount of money to work making sure this doesn't happen.

So you think we just cut the crap about democratically reforming capitalism, because there can be no democracy under capitalism, and just take everything these motherfuckers have got?

Because, as far as I can tell, those are our two alternatives. Either we can reform and control capital democratically, limiting it to a sphere proportionate to its value to society, or no such change is possible, and therefore we have no option but to seize control of the products of our labour by force.

To be honest, at this point I'm fine with either.
posted by howfar at 1:37 PM on March 8 [10 favorites]


Anyone interested in the "is Amazon a monopoly" question from upthread might be interested in this detailed Yale Law Journal article, which makes the case that antitrust law is way out of date when it comes to modern business structures like Amazon's.
posted by Dr. Send at 1:42 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


yeah, if you are arguing that economic justice is impossible within a capitalist economy managed by capitalist-controlled politicians, you are not making an argument in favor of capitalism. You are making an argument in favor of armed socialist revolution.

see you on the barricades, comrades.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:44 PM on March 8 [21 favorites]


As long as the big, famous companies like Google, Apple, Amazon ... pay about 2 % in taxes they should be considered publicly subsidized, says me. This is part of the explanation of their success. They are in fact supported by the public, and by all their smaller competitors, who are not able to move their profits to international tax havens.

Which, we’re going to pay for them to exist, we should have a say in how they’re run. We cannot allow these internal dictatorship to look so large in our democracry. There’s more then one route up that mountain and we should try all of them, but as democracry has slowly spread in the political sphere, so must democracry spread in the economic.

The oligarchs are going to fight you as hard as they can no matter how small or reasonable your reform is, you might as well swing for the fences and attempt to actually change the power structure for once.
posted by The Whelk at 2:26 PM on March 8 [14 favorites]


One way to deal with this without requiring direct government intervention is to have very rapidly escalating income tax rates based on size of the company. Companies would then be incentivized to willingly break themselves up in the most efficient manner to reduce their taxes. This would work well for big banks as well as these mega-corporations. This avoids the issues of years of lawsuits and government dicing of companies.
posted by JackFlash at 2:35 PM on March 8


Also, one part of breaking the power of these companies should be providing good public alternatives*, a public/postal banking system for one, municipal broadband and internet, etc.

Hell, pour money into public defenders, rid yourself of the market mindset and a thousand possibilities bloom.

*the problem with this is the risk of creating two tier structures, something for rich people and something for everyone else, so your more bottom steps on the Maslow’s pyramid should be Universal, and making sure you don’t appoint people to those public alternatives whose stated goal is to ruin it and then sell it off to thier friends but this is a larger discussion about how capital exploited the flaws in social democracy to create Austerity.
posted by The Whelk at 2:35 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


She’s coming out of the gate weak in the polls, even with national name recognition.

Truthfully, according to this table (scroll down) on FiveThirtyEight, Warren's support has almost doubled since December of 2018. It seems that the more people get to know Warren and her platform, the more they like her. I know I feel the same way. Plus her age is just about at the upper limit of what I would want in a President (there are, ahem, two white guys who are Just Too Damn Old).

Sure, Warren's position on tech companies might draw a target on her back from them, but it doesn't seem to be translating into (potential) voter dislike. And, certainly, there will be no FBI interference and no Comey (or Comey equivalent) letter. It will remain to be seen if Warren's campaign really can be sabotaged by Big Something Or Another.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:04 PM on March 8 [6 favorites]


I can’t see losing NY through being against Amazon, TBH.
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


a-fuckin men and let's get to it

leaves out big healthcare though. them too.
posted by mwhybark at 4:29 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


come to think of it leaves out big finance, hmmm
posted by mwhybark at 4:30 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


The poll cited by 538 is about "Democratic activists" instead of a cross-section of voters.
posted by Selena777 at 4:46 PM on March 8


I think the way to get through to California using Warren's arguments is to show that people, including techies and workers, who depend on the tech economy are nevertheless exploited and hurt by the system.

Similarly, it's interesting the concern that we like nice things and services and technologies; it is a valid concern but does not justify social harms.

People having a say in democracy is the last thing corporations and lobbyists want. In using services like Amazon, we cede our democratic rights and little bits of justice, for convenience and expedience without having to ask questions. It is a psychological politics that regular people like myself at some point internalize. In this structural way, the adversaries of an egalitarian social democracy can render alternatives unthinkable.
posted by polymodus at 5:08 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Warren is off her rocker. She get kudos on the MF bubble. But let there be no doubt. MF is a bubble.

if i am a malcontent for actually giving a shit about worker's rights, fair elections, and the privacy of our citizens, things which amazon, facebook, and google don't give a goddamn about and in fact in some cases actively oppose - well then i'd rather be a malcontent than whatever the hell the other option is.

Breaking up Google, Amazon and Facebook doesn't fix these issues. They can be addressed by regulation. Though Google, Amazon and Facebook will not necessarily be targeted. But regulation is too hard, so we'll just break up these companies because they're monopolies if you change the definition of monopoly.

We're fucked.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:55 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Is there anything from the break up of Ma Bell that we could learn from and apply to breaking up these substantially larger companies?

I was a kid back then, too, but I vividly remember going from very expensive phones of very few styles -- because you had to lease them from the phone company, no buying your own and attaching to the phone jacks allowed! -- to lots of phones of varying styles, quality levels and cost. To a kid like me, who knew nothing except how it looked from the end of the wires, that seemed like a net consumer benefit.
posted by davejay at 6:05 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


The more I read about Elizabeth Warren and hear her policy proposals, the more I'm growing to love her and want to vote for her. ... No matter what happens, Warren is bringing things to the table and discussing them which will force other candidates ... to address the issue. And Warren has a solid background on economics and workers' rights.

Right. And, this is exactly why I want her to stay in the US Senate that we have to fight to get back under Democratic control. Warren is smart and has a deep understanding of the problems and can communicate them well. She can write the laws and get them in place. I'd rather have her in a senior position in the Senate where the legislating actually happens and working directly on these issues than managing the entire shit show as POTUS since the next one will spend all eight years just starting to repair the damage.
posted by Gotanda at 6:22 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Can't people go be negative Nancys in the Fucking Fuck thread? It seems like women candidates attract "oh no we're DOOMED she's a terrible candidate" like sugar attracts ants. Warren is a great candidate. I'd be happy to vote for her. And I think she can attract those much-vaunted working-class votes just as much as Brown could have.

We need a blue Senate, no doubt about that, and the one fly in the ointment is that Charlie Baker might appoint a Republican as an interim senator. But Massachusetts is pretty reliably blue; Scott Brown, for instance, only won because he ran against a truly terrible and bad campaigner Democrat for Ted Kennedy's vacated seat, and he only lasted one term before he was beaten (by Warren). The Republican bench in MA is...less than formidable.

I'm so happy to have all these great women (Harris, Gillibrand, and Warren) running for President.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:01 PM on March 8 [7 favorites]


Breaking up Google, Amazon and Facebook doesn't fix these issues. They can be addressed by regulation. Though Google, Amazon and Facebook will not necessarily be targeted. But regulation is too hard, so we'll just break up these companies because they're monopolies if you change the definition of monopoly.

Silicon Valley does not believe in being regulated. It is part of the ethos of the industry,and the major players invest resources in fighting regulation. Part of why we seek to break these companies up is so we can regulate them, because as they are, they have immense resources to put towards fighting regulations.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:13 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


Thanks for reminding me why I ignore the uspol threads like the plague, y'all.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:27 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I’ve noticed that lately the rhetoric used by our local right-of-liberal types to respond to proposals for using state power to control market entities involves accusations of craziness, i. e. “she’s off her rocker” or whatever.

I don’t know if it’s because they’re steeped in the same right-wing media, and therefore end up using similar rhetoric, or if it is a useful indicator of the underlying value systems of right-of-liberal people. Let’s treat it as indicative of a belief, rather than just a pose struck for rhetorical effect.

We see that to the right-of-liberal, any interference with private property toward public ends is madness, sheer madness. The bedrock of their value systems is the protection of private property against it being turned to public ends. I’m trying to speak as precisely as possible here, since I don’t think the most intuitive interpretation of the conservative shock over state interference in the market — that conservatives view the defense of private property full stop as the highest good — is necessarily tenable. This is because conservatives often prefer actions that threaten private property (see, for example, conservative support for, or at least lukewarm acceptance of, mass land seizures along the border in order to construct trump’s wall).

I’m not sure what drives the opposition to the interference by the government for the public good stems from. If I had to guess it is rooted in a love of hierarchy. To the conservative mind, the stockholders of google and amazon and facebook outrank elected officials, and thus the interference by electeds in the operation of google and amazon and facebook would be a type of mutiny. It’s not intuitively obvious to my mind why the owners of google and amazon and facebook outrank electeds, but if I had to guess it’d be because the owners of google and amazon and facebook derive their legitimacy from money, while the electeds derive their legitimacy from people — and money outranks people.

I’d also like to note that the conservative arguments we’ve seen here are not rooted in economic analysis or analysis of benefit to the populace — it’s not “oh well if the state breaks up google it won’t work as well we shouldn’t do that, it’s “it is crazy to do that.” There are some liberals attempting to muster a technocratic argument, but for the conservatives, it’s a matter of moral revulsion rather than cost/benefit analysis.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:29 PM on March 8 [14 favorites]


Tech Co worshipers are weird and very emotionally invested. They’re basically Monarchists at heart, which may or may not be a Moldbugian thing depending on if they’ve been infected by that strain of garbage. And then there’s your Free Market* types, for whom it is religious doctrine.

* Big Tech being neither the product of or conducive to anything like a “free” market, but thats a pretty common flaw at the libertarian end of the pool.
posted by Artw at 8:05 PM on March 8 [8 favorites]


Hi Rosie, I didn't mean to be a negative Nancy. I just meant that Warren is so good as a Senator and having that safe blue seat in Massachusetts means she can go further than many other Senators can. And, I'd be happy to vote for any of them. Harris or Gillibrand strike me as much more formidable in the White House and I really hope I get to vote for one of them next November.
posted by Gotanda at 8:13 PM on March 8


> Apple also has $245 billion in cash reserves, with basically no plan to spend it. That's absurd and needs to change too.

It would be (a lot) smaller if tax loopholes (e.g. double Irish) were closed which I support, but would you rather Apple make investment bankers rich and its shareholders poorer by spending the dough on mega-mergers like AOL Time-Warner, SBC AT&T, AT&T Time-Warner, HP Compaq, Verizon-Verizon Wireless*, Disney Fox or Amazon Whole Foods?

Remember "Pray"? Apple has almost run out of operating cash. I'd rather it be conservative about spending the horde than risk annihilation again. Is building a cash reserve itself a problem if an entity doesn't abuse its market power?

>> Why should she or the federal government have any say in how these companies operate?

> Because one of the roles of the federal government is to encourage competition in markets by breaking up monopolies and prohibiting collusion and trusts?


I remember Bill Gates testifying before Congress 20 years ago claiming Windows wasn't a monopoly. I scoffed, but then his central argument sunk in: true monopolies are price insensitive because customer has no where else to go. If they'd raised a Win 98 license to $1000, Apple could have resurrected Nextstep for intel and sold it for $500. Microsoft was convicted as an abusive monopoly, but are the current titans really so entrenched after only ~15 years?

> Amazon, which, outside of the MetaFilter bubble, is widely liked and trusted by the majority of Americans. [...] Despite what a few malcontents on MetaFilter think.

My mother uses & trusts Amazon to ship her commodity goods quickly. [she hasn't been hit by a counterfeit yet] Though she has friends who work in the labor movement, she's not that tuned in, but even she knows about the working conditions at the warehouses. I mentioned jobs at AWS in Portland as a change of pace & she was all no no no no, don't do it, even though I'd be an Eloi in this situation (at least paid well, though even Amazon engineers are rumored to be treated not-so-great), not a Morlock.
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 8:57 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


Previously and previouslier on breaking up the tech monopolies by Scott Galloway. Focuses more on the harms than the mechanics of the remedy, which I see as Warren's big contribution: she knows how government works.
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 9:03 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Breaking up Google, Amazon and Facebook doesn't fix these issues. They can be addressed by regulation. Though Google, Amazon and Facebook will not necessarily be targeted. But regulation is too hard, so we'll just break up these companies because they're monopolies if you change the definition of monopoly.

there is no world where regulating these companies would be harder than breaking them up. demonopolizing the tech companies (or, even better, nationalizing google and amazon and outright abolishing facebook) is an absolutely massive political project. we're not thinking small here. you are. you're envisioning a world where we continue to let corporate behemoths dictate public life, we just leashes on them and fine them minuscule percentages of their total worth when they ignore regulations. get outside of YOUR bubble. talk to some people under 30. talk to poor people. talk to minorities. people aren't stupid. billionaires are historically unpopular. people are sick and tired of their lives sucking and they know EXACTLY who is responsible. the tide is rising. be on the right side of history.
posted by JimBennett at 9:36 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]


I want to stress emphatically that this has absolutely no bearing on the substance or legitimacy of Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon's comment; nor is this meant to be any sort of critique on it. But...am I the only one who heard Jeremy Clarkson's voice reciting it in their head?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:05 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Well, I cannot say you are the only one, but I had to wikipedia the name, so um, I can definitively report I did not.

What is a Top Gear? Is it the sort of thing I would need a televisual transceiver or an automotive transportation carriage to understand?
posted by mwhybark at 10:18 PM on March 8


The thing about the top gear is that it's so top, it's like how much more top could it be? And the answer is none. None more top.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:41 PM on March 8


on the one hand I've never seen top gear, but on the other hand if I sound like jeremy clarkson that means I don't sound like the slate star codex guys. and sounding like the slate star codex guys is what I'm afraid of.

okay I admit it the writing style I'm going for is probably more china miéville than anything else. so sounding like jeremy clarkson counts as a measured success — at least it seems like I'm from the correct island.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:27 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]


Here's a perfect example of Amazon's evil clout due to its size. Washington state has a new bill to outlaw odious anti-labor non-compete agreements. But at the last minute, Amazon lobbyists amended the bill to exclude any employee making more than $100,000 salary. This would exclude most of the highly paid workers at its headquarters in Seattle. So Amazon has used its market weight to rewrite laws to its benefit and to the detriment of its employees.
posted by JackFlash at 8:44 AM on March 9 [5 favorites]


classic. they also squelched the head tax that was popular in seattle until they fired up their propaganda campaign.

(seattle municipal politics is sort of fascinating, though it's been a little while since I've paid close attention to it. On the one hand the electorate is moving far enough to the left to do things like elect actual trotskyists, but on the other hand amazon is growing increasingly impatient with the existence of democratic government in its hometown. In the long term amazon is going to win, since the working- and middle-class people who elect socialists are increasingly getting priced out of the city as it completes its transformation into san francisco north, but in the short term there's been a lot of interesting class warfare.)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:54 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


BRB registering “English Novelist China Miéville“ sock puppet account
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:21 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]


since the working- and middle-class people who elect socialists are increasingly getting priced out of the city as it completes its transformation into san francisco north,

I keep coming back to the Timothy Lee article when I read about things like this. Certain cities will always be more desirable thanks to weather, cultural amenities, etc. Zoning and housing policies restrict supply and drive up demand in many cities, as well. But when I read about city after city becoming too expensive even for middle-class people with good jobs, I can't help but feel that too many people trying to pack into too few superstar cities is part of the problem. And why do people flock to these cities? Often, it's jobs. Corporate monopolies and consolidations mean that good jobs and "thick" job markets are increasingly concentrated in a few cities. Timothy Lee again on what he calls the Pokemon Go Economy.

Warren, of all people, has seen this happen over a period of decades, and wrote about increasing housing prices in desirable cities in her The Two Income Trap. If Warren could implement her trust-busting idea, not just for Big Tech but for Big Just About Everything (cable, pharma, you name it) and splinter and scatter the job market among more locations, I think that would help ease crowding and gentrification and enable people to have more locations to choose from. (And if that gets more socialists elected, that's a nice lagniappe.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:34 AM on March 9 [7 favorites]


I want her to stay in the US Senate that we have to fight to get back under Democratic control

The Senate is very unlikely to go Dem for a long time because it's driven by geography. All those rural states retain unequal power over the urban states, despite the latter's population growth.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:13 PM on March 9


Yes, that's the reason for the fight. If people only engage in political activism that is likely to yield short-term results, we really will be doomed.

I know that learned helplessness is a hell of a drug, but there's no need for people to push it quite so relentlessly. The people you're talking to aren't idiots: we all know how difficult the fights are. Assuming that anyone who is arguing for something imagines that it will be easy to achieve seems kind of naïve and maybe a bit arrogant. It's certainly not helpful.
posted by howfar at 5:47 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]


I'm all for this, and breaking up Apple as well. Divorce the phone from the publishing platform and media store.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:33 AM on March 10


From a technical standpoint, in order to break up any of these companies it seems like the government would be required to hire an army of highly trained programmer types -- where are they going to get them? (Not to say it shouldn't happen, but *how* would it, from a practical standpoint?)

I also very much enjoy the notion of reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon (not to be confused with Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon) sitting in his study endeavoring to write like China Miéville...)
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 11:53 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Don't get caught up in the how, because there are plenty of talented programmer types out there who would welcome the opportunity to work on making our society a better place rather than a worse one. Recruit them from the companies themselves, or hire them from the masses of people who "age out" of companies who only hire children, or...there are tons of options.

But first, commit to the work needing to be done.
posted by maxwelton at 1:04 PM on March 10


> I also very much enjoy the notion of reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon (not to be confused with Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon) sitting in his study endeavoring to write like China Miéville...)

The way to keep track of which one is which is to remember that I'm Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon and that other guy is Wanda Tinasky.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:17 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]




From a technical standpoint, in order to break up any of these companies it seems like the government would be required to hire an army of highly trained programmer types -- where are they going to get them?

Generally it would be the companies themselves working on compliance, but I like what you are thinking with the jobs program.
posted by Artw at 2:12 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]




I'm really pleasantly surprised with the reception this idea is getting in tech circles online. HN has a couple of posts about it and they are taking it very seriously, with the default attitude being much more favorable than I would have guessed. Ars Technica and /r/technology are more divided, but there's much less "this is crazy!" and much more "she's got a point" than I expected.
posted by Jpfed at 8:56 AM on March 12


There’s a lot of people in tech who are aware of the nature of the beast they are working in - I would recommend Cory Pein’s Live Work Work Work Die for more on that.

Great podcast interview with him here if you want the skinny version on how tech hypercaitalism seem from the inside sucks and is a scam.
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


You only need to look at the labor organization going on in Google to know that a fair number of tech workers are not happy about the power that tech companies have.
posted by octothorpe at 2:20 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


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