Commentary

Amazon Remains the Market’s Apex Predator

By Craig Shirley | April 1, 2021 | 11:31am EDT
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tours the facility at the grand opening of the Amazon Spheres, in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2018. (Photo credit: JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tours the facility at the grand opening of the Amazon Spheres, in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2018. (Photo credit: JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

Some people still like to view Amazon as a personalized company delivering a variety of products straight to their door.

This may have once been true, but make no mistake, Amazon is not simply any multi-billion-dollar company; it is the multi-billion-dollar company. It’s owned by Jeff Bezos, who at this point deserves a lengthy epithet for his obscene wealth: Bezos, First of His Name, Liberal Owner of Amazon, Washington Post, and Whole Foods, Destroyer of Markets and Businesses.

In short, Amazon and Bezos have become behemoths. That makes them dangerous – more so because of Bezos’s liberal views. That isn’t just a blind knock against liberalism – “oh he’s liberal, he’s dangerous!” – but a clear analysis of the end goal for the left. Liberalism puts collectivist control in the hands of government; the government takes care of you and tells you what to do in your best interest, for the country. One who believes in the few leading the many, as opposed to the many determining their own destiny, is someone you don’t want leading.

But no matter. Liberalism aside, Bezos has become dangerous.

American capitalism encourages fair competition. Amazon wants to put a stop to that. They possess, no doubt, monopoly powers, according to the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law.

Think of their competitors...we can wait. Whatever company you may have named, none even get close to the size of Amazon. They practically control whatever market they choose. If you want to buy tools at cheap prices, go to Amazon. If you want to buy books at cheap prices, go to Amazon. If you want to buy toys, baby clothes, movies, or posters, then go to Amazon. Their acquisition of Whole Foods (practically for free, with how high their stock jumped in the Trump stock market), caused many economists to worry that what happened to Borders and is happening to Barnes & Noble will happen to Giant or other grocery stores.

Amazon’s success in making a profit encourages predatory and preferential pricing. This made headlines when, for example, they slashed Hillary Clinton’s sanctimonious, self-pitying book by over half the list price, which happened to propel it to number one in all books on Amazon. That’s what made headlines – that Amazon has so much control. If, say, Wal-Mart decided to slash the price, you’d be hard pressed to see it as breaking news. But because Amazon is Amazon, the news carried it (and it certainly didn’t hurt sales to receive free advertising either). Further, this allowed Bezos’s agenda to seem more popular than it really was by giving preference to this book without any counterpoints.

So, what can be done about this monstrous company? How does one counter something so vast and with influence in so many places? There’s no simple or one-shot solution (and there rarely is).

Let’s consider the early twentieth century: John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the United States (ever) and one of the richest men in the world. He founded and owned the Standard Oil Company in 1870. Soon Standard Oil became multinational and the largest in the industry, literally tapping into the developing oil and gas boom, practicing both horizontal and vertical integration. In other words, Rockefeller owned, at the height of his power, 90 percent of all refineries, and owned and controlled the prices of the oil, the production, and the process. While horizontal and vertical integrations are not illegal or monopolistic by themselves, the combination of both and the failure of competitors at the hand of Standard Oil led to the Supreme Court forcing Rockefeller to break up the company, ruling that he broke anti-trust laws. Its successors include such modern giants as ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron.

Compare this to Amazon; they control the prices of books, and they sell the books themselves. That creates owner-like influence to publishing companies.

Jeff Bezos is what happens when William Randolph Hearst and John Rockefeller combine. The press of Hearst is clearly Bezos’s Washington Post, a once well-respected newspaper that has debased itself to the lowest of the low. Hearst popularized yellow journalism, which the Post has perfected, putting sensationalism and agenda above accuracy or thoroughness. “You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war,” Hearst once said. Wars sell papers, and Hearst understood that. So too, has Bezos’ Post used its war on Trump and anything under the sun that’s conservative to sell papers.

Bezos has the best of both worlds here. He is Citizen Kane meets the Monopoly Man. He controls the press, and he controls the market. If he runs for president, which he very well may, he’ll want to control the government as well. With his control over publishers and sales, he wields power greater than Hearst ever did. Whether unaccountability of his “algorithms” for rating books or his ability to lower prices and boost sales of political allies, it’s no doubt that Bezos – and Amazon – are a might of their own.

In the late 1800s, Rockefeller must’ve felt just as immortal. But feeling immortal does not make it so. If that were the case, Standard Oil might still exist. It will take action from Congress, perhaps even the Supreme Court. But something must give, or else any sort of meaningful private enterprise in America will be dead on arrival. A single, all-powerful business with ultimate control is just as bad as government with ultimate control. Sherman Antitrust, do you hear me?

Craig Shirley is the author of four bestselling books Ronald Reagan's campaigns, including "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980," out March 21, 2017. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, "December 1941," and is the president of Shirley & McVicker Public Affairs.

MRC Store