To that end, she introduced a bill that would increase the Justice Department’s and Federal Trade Commission’s budgets for antitrust enforcement and clamp down on anti-competitive mergers. The bill would also substantially lower the bar for establishing that a “dominant” company — like, say, Amazon — is engaging in “exclusionary conduct.”
The scope of Amazon’s dominance is difficult to comprehend. But wherever you look, you will find business practices perpetrated by an empire erected on a foundation of impunity from the laws of fair commerce.
Experts have agreed for some time that those laws need updating for the era of algorithms and ubiquitous smart device surveillance. But they also need to be restored to their original glory. This can happen only if new rules are surgically devised so that judges and economists who champion the free market cannot effectively cancel their enforcement.
That’s where Ms. Klobuchar’s bill needs work. And even a great antitrust bill is only a start. Parts of Amazon should probably be regulated like utilities. Schools and public services deserve its tax dollars and those of its estimated $195-billion-dollar man. Its warehouse workers, like those in Bessemer, Ala., now voting on whether to join a union, deserve labor protections, as do its third-party sellers and “independent” delivery drivers. In the Bessemer campaign, the National Labor Relations Board recently denied Amazon’s bid to require in-person voting. If the drive succeeds, we will know just how effective its intimidation efforts have been. If it fails, the mere existence of a massive union drive in the Deep South is a sign worker fear is wearing off.
But unlike Jeff Bezos, who seems to have only just learned how to take a vacation, the lawmakers, workers and businesses uniting to rein in the empire he created have only just started to fight. And, no disrespect, they are not afraid of Andy Jassy.
Maureen Tkacik is a senior fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project. She has worked for The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Philadelphia Daily News and Gawker. Her writing on business and economics has appeared in The New Republic, The Baffler, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
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