Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Amazon Is Uniting Liberal and Conservative (against the Borg that is AMZN)

"We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."
-Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3 finale, 1990

The Daily Beast has been left leaning since Tina Brown (New Yorker, Vanity Fair) founded it in 2008.

Joel Kotkin hangs his hat on the peg marked Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, CA in what used to be the most conservative county in California.
Since 2001 O.C. hasn't held that title but five Orange County cities are among the 10 most conservative in the state. Kotkin describes himself as a conservative Democrat and is on the editorial board of the O.C. Register which is decidedly Libertarian.

Here's Kotkin at the Daily Beast:

Democracy or Oligarchy?
Amazon Eats Up Whole Foods as the New Masters of the Universe Plunder America
Unlike our old moguls, the new Masters don’t promise greater prosperity but a world where most people are to be satiated by a state-provided basic income and occasional ‘gig’ work.
“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” —Justice Louis Brandeis
With his $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has made clear his determination to dominate every facet of mass retailing, likely at the cost of massive layoffs in the $800 billion supermarket sector.

But this, if anything, understates the ambitions of America’s new ruling class, almost entirely based in San Francisco and Seattle, as it moves to take over industries from entertainment and transportation to energy and space exploration that once thrived and competed outside the reach of the oligarchy.

Brandeis posed his choice at a time when industrial moguls and allied Wall Street financiers dominated the American economy. Like the oligarchs of the past, today’s new Masters of the Universe are reshaping our society in ways that could, if unchallenged, undermine the foundations of our middle-class republic. This new oligarchy has amassed wealth that would impress the likes of J.P. Morgan. Bezos’ net worth is a remarkable $84.7 billion; the Whole Foods acquisition makes him the world’s second richest man, up from the third richest last year. His $600 million gain in Amazon stock from the purchase is more than the combined winnings of Whole Foods’ 10 top shareholders.

The Emergence of Oligarchic America
Founded two decades ago, Amazon revenue has grown eightfold in the last decade. Bezos now wants to “reorganize the world,” as one tech writer put it, “as an Amazon storefront.” He has done this by convincing investors that despite scant profits, the ample rewards of monopoly await. Kroger, or the corner-food store, enjoys no such luxury. With a seemingly endless supply of capital and the prospect of never-ending expansion, the Silicon Valley-Puget Sound oligarchy now accounts for six of the world’s 13 richest people, and virtually all billionaires who are not either very old or merely inheritors.

Apple, even as it it evades American taxes, enjoys a $250 billion cash reserve that surpass that of the United Kingdom and Canada combined. Their new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino—like those of firms such as Facebook, Alphabet, and—reflect the kind of heady excess that earlier generations of moguls might have admired. The peculiar nature of the tech economy rewards even to failures, like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, who earned $239 million, almost a million a week, as she drove one of the net’s earliest stars toward oblivion.

The tech booms of the 1980s and 1990s rode on a wave of entrepreneurialism that provided enormous opportunities for millions of Americans, the current wave is characterized by stagnant productivity, consolidation, and disparities in wealth not seen since the mogul era. As one recent paper demonstrates, the “super platforms” of the so-called Big Five depress competition, squeeze suppliers, and drive down earnings, much as the monopolists of the late 19th century did.

Indeed for most Americans the once-promising new economy has meant a descent, as one MIT economist recently put it, toward a precarious position usually associated with Third World countries. Even Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the oligarch universe, has gone from one of the most egalitarian places in America to a highly unequal one where the working and middle class have, if anything, done worse, in terms of income, than before the boom.

The Oligarchs Outsmart the Political Class
In the past, progressive political thinkers like Brandeis sought to curb over-concentrated wealth and power. In contrast, today’s Democratic establishment rarely addresses such issues. That’s no wonder given that the party is now financed in large part by the tech giants, which have backed in almost lock-step the environmental, social, and cultural agenda that dominates today’s left. In exchange, they have bought political cover for things such as misogyny, lack of ethnic diversity, and of unions and fair labor practices that old-line companies like Walmart, Exxon, or General Motors could never enjoy....MUCH MORE