jerryking + antitrust   28

Opinion | America’s Risky Approach to Artificial Intelligence
October 7, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.”

The brilliant 2014 science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, depicts the fate of civilizations as almost entirely dependent on winning grand races to scientific milestones. Someone in China’s leadership must have read that book, for Beijing has made winning the race to artificial intelligence a national obsession, devoting billions of dollars to the cause and setting 2030 as the target year for world dominance. Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently declared that whoever masters A.I. “will become the ruler of the world.”..... if there is even a slim chance that the race to build stronger A.I. will determine the future of the world — and that does appear to be at least a possibility — the United States and the rest of the West are taking a surprisingly lackadaisical and alarmingly risky approach to the technology........The plan seems to be for the American tech industry, which makes most of its money in advertising and selling personal gadgets, to serve as champions of the West. Those businesses, it is hoped, will research, develop and disseminate the most important basic technologies of the future. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are formidable entities, with great talent and resources that approximate those of small countries. But they don’t have the resources of large countries, nor do they have incentives that fully align with the public interest...... The history of computing research is a story not just of big corporate laboratories but also of collaboration and competition among civilian government, the military, academia and private players both big (IBM, AT&T) and small (Apple, Sun)......Some advocates of more A.I. research have called for a “Manhattan project” for A.I. — but that’s not the right model. The atomic bomb and the moon rocket were giant but discrete projects. In contrast, A.I. is a broad and vague set of scientific technologies that encompass not just recent trends in machine learning but also anything else designed to replicate or augment human cognition.....the United States government should broadly fund basic research and insist on broad dissemination..... the United States needs to support immigration laws that attract the world’s top A.I. talent. The history of breakthroughs made by start-ups also suggests the need for policies, like the enforcement of antitrust laws and the defense of net neutrality, that give small players a chance.... the computer scientist and entrepreneur Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” describes a race between China and Silicon Valley, as if the latter were the sum total of Western science in this area. In the future, when we look back at this period, we may come to regret the loss of a healthy balance between privately and publicly funded A.I. research in the West, and the drift of too much scientific and engineering talent into the private sector.
antitrust  ARPA  artificial_intelligence  Beijing  Bell_Labs  Big_Tech  China  China_Rising  FAANG  high-risk  immigration  industrial_policies  Kai-Fu_Lee  Manhattan_project  publicly_funded  R&D  risks  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  talent  Tim_Wu  Vladimir_Putin  Xerox 
14 days ago by jerryking
Lina Khan: ‘This isn’t just about antitrust. It’s about values’
March 29, 2019 | Financial Times | by Rana Foroohar.

Lina Khan is the legal wunderkind reshaping the global debate over competition and corporate power......While still a student at Yale Law School, she wrote a paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”, which was published in the school’s influential journal..... hit a nerve at a time when the overweening power of the Big Tech companies, from Facebook to Google to Amazon, is rising up the agenda......For roughly four decades, antitrust scholars — taking their lead from Robert Bork’s 1978 book The Antitrust Paradox — have pegged their definitions of monopoly power to short-term price effects; so if Amazon is making prices lower for consumers, the market must be working effectively.....Khan made the case that this interpretation of US antitrust law, meant to regulate competition and curb monopolistic practices, is utterly unsuited to the architecture of the modern economy.....Khan's counterargument: that it doesn’t matter if companies such as Amazon are making things cheaper in dollars if they are using predatory pricing strategies to dominate multiple industries and choke off competition and choice.....Speaking to hedge funds and banks during her research, Khan found that they were valuing Amazon and its growth potential in a way that signified monopoly power..." I’m interested in imbalances in market power and how they manifest. That’s something you can see not just in tech but across many industries,” says Khan, who has written sharp pieces on monopoly power in areas as diverse as airlines and agriculture. " Khan, like many in her cohort, believes otherwise. “If markets are leading us in directions that we, as a democratic society, decide are not compatible with our vision of liberty or democracy, it is incumbent upon government to do something.” Lina Khan has had a stint as a legal fellow at the Federal Trade Commission, consulted with EU officials, influenced competition policy in India, brainstormed ideas with presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren and — recently joined the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The 2008 financial crisis she thinks “about markets, and the government’s response to them, and certain forms of intervention that they do take, and that they don’t take”.....Khan, Lynn and others including the Columbia academic Tim Wu have developed and popularised the “new Brandeis” school of antitrust regulation, hearkening back to the era in which Louis Brandeis, the “people’s lawyer”, took on oligarchs such as John D Rockefeller and JP Morgan.....Lina sees Amazon as not just a discount retailer but as a marketing platform, delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, auction house, publisher and so on, and to understand just how ill-equipped current antitrust law was to deal with such a multi-faceted entity......a Columbia Law Review paper out in May 2019 will explores the case for separating the ownership of technology platforms from the commercial activity they host, so that Big Tech firms cannot both run a dominant marketplace and compete on it. via a host of old cases — from railroad antitrust suits to the separation of merchant banking and the ownership of commodities — to argue that “if you are a form of infrastructure, then you shouldn’t be able to compete with all the businesses dependent on your infrastructure”....“The new Brandeis movement isn’t just about antitrust,” .... Rather, it is about values. “Laws reflect values,” she says. “Antitrust laws used to reflect one set of values, and then there was a change in values that led us to a very different place.”

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21st._century  Amazon  antitrust  Big_Tech  digital_economy  financial_crises  FTC  lawyers  Lina_Khan  monopolies  paradoxes  platforms  policymakers  predatory_practices  Rana_Foroohar  regulators  Robert_Bork  Tim_Wu  wunderkind  Yale  values  value_judgements 
march 2019 by jerryking
Five things we learnt from Apple’s latest launch
March 27, 2019 | | Financial Times | Richard Waters 3 HOURS AGO.

(1) With its move to services, Apple's balance sheet and installed base of users have taken over as the main source of competitive advantage....Apple has barely scratched the surface in selling content and services for the 1.4bn iPhone, Macs and other devices in active use.
(2) there is a chance to carve out a trusted position at a time when other internet giants are under fire. Think of it as a Disney for digital services: a trusted brand built around a set of values that stand above the crowd.
(3) there is still room for innovation at the margin, which should have a halo effect for the brand. The new credit card with Goldman Sachs is a case in point.
(4) Apple’s main way to make money — selling hardware — leaves it with a dilemma as it makes the move into services. .... it will be hard to get a return on the huge spending on entertainment unless it spreads that investment across the largest possible audience — which means reaching beyond its own hardware. This tension between vertical and horizontal business models — capturing more of the value from its own devices on the one hand, selling a service for everyone on the other — is not new for Apple.

(5) after more than a decade of the App Store, Apple’s relationship with many of the companies that have relied on the digital storefront to reach their own customers is about to change utterly...How will Apple promote its own services to its users, and what will this mean for iOS as a platform for third party apps? Spotify’s antitrust complaint to the EU this month is likely to be the harbinger of more challenges to come.
antitrust  Apple  Apple_IDs  App_Store  balance_sheets  Big_Tech  competitive_advantage  consumer_finance  credit_cards  cross-platform  EU  halo_effects  hardware  iOS  Richard_Waters  services  Spotify  streaming  subscriptions  turning_points  user_bases  web_video 
march 2019 by jerryking
Regulatory showdown awaits for Big Tech — but who gets the job?
March 1, 2019 | Financial Times | Richard Waters.

Wanted: an antitrust enforcer to lead the charge against Big Tech. Must be able to invent novel applications of competition theory to digital markets.

There is a growing list of candidates for this job — but it isn’t at all clear who is best placed to jump into the hot seat.

The US Federal Trade Commission has just volunteered itself, setting up a task force to examine the dominant tech companies. Among the agency’s promises: it will consider new theories of harm that until now haven’t made it out of academia, and it won’t hesitate to push for the court-ordered unwinding of past mergers if it turns out they’re hurting competition.

One problem for competition regulators in the US is that they have taken too narrow a view of their roles, according to Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. They are concerned almost exclusively with protecting consumers from higher prices — something that doesn’t apply to “free” (advertising-supported) internet services. In his latest book, The Curse of Bigness, Wu calls for a return to a much broader interpretation of the US antitrust statutes, treating market concentration itself as an evil needing be to rectified.
antitrust  Big_Tech  books  FTC  regulation  regulators  Richard_Waters  Tim_Wu 
march 2019 by jerryking
Roger McNamee on how to tame Big Tech
February 7, 2019 | Financial Times | Roger McNamee.

Government intervention of this kind is a first step on the path to resolving the privacy issues that result from the architecture, business models and culture of internet platforms. But privacy is not the only problem we must confront. Internet platforms are transforming our economy and culture in unprecedented ways. We do not even have a vocabulary to describe this transformation, which complicates the challenge facing policymakers....Google, Facebook and other internet platforms use data to influence or manipulate users in ways that create economic value for the platform, but not necessarily for the users themselves. In the context of these platforms, users are not the customer. They are not even the product. They are more like fuel.....Google, Facebook and the rest now have economic power on the scale of early 20th-century monopolists such as Standard Oil. What is unprecedented is the political power that internet platforms have amassed — power that they exercise with no accountability or oversight, and seemingly without being aware of their responsibility to society......When capitalism functions properly, government sets and enforces the rules under which businesses and citizens must operate. Today, however, corpor­ations have usurped this role. Code and algorithms have replaced the legal system as the limiter on behaviour. Corporations such as Google and Facebook behave as if they are not accountable to anyone. Google’s seeming disdain for regulation by the EU and Facebook’s violations of the spirit of its agreement with the US FTC over user consent are cases in point......AI promises to be revolutionary. That said, it will not necessarily be a force for good. The problem is the people who create AI. They are human...McNamee recommends two areas of emphasis: regulation and innovation. As for the former, the most important requirement is to create and enforce standards that require new technology to serve the needs of those who use it and society as a whole. ...... The IoT requires our approval. Do not give it until vendors behave responsibly. Demand that policymakers take action to protect public health, democracy, privacy, innovation and the economy.
accountability  Alexa  antitrust  artificial_intelligence  biases  Big_Tech  consent  dark_side  Facebook  Google  Industrial_Internet  monopolies  personal_data  platforms  political_power  privacy  Roger_McNamee  sensors  surveillance  unintended_consequences 
february 2019 by jerryking
Big Tech in hiring spree for looming antitrust battles | Financial Times
Kiran Stacey in Washington DECEMBER 23, 2018 Print this page6
Big technology and telecoms companies have embarked on a hiring spree of former antitrust officials as their industries gear up for what experts warn could be an “existential” battle over whether they should be broken up.

In the last few months, Facebook, Amazon and AT&T have all hired senior antitrust officials from the US Department of Justice as they confront a new generation of regulators who are interested in preventing concentrations of economic power......Many of the biggest US technology companies have endured a difficult year, facing allegations of not protecting customer data, failing to prevent Russian interference in American democracy and showing political bias.

In response, several have beefed up their lobbying operations in Washington as they look to engage more with politicians, having previously preferred to operate under the radar. .....Experts say the hirings reflect a growing belief that competition policy could become the next significant political battleground....The European Commission has investigated US technology companies for alleged anti-competitive behaviour. Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, is bringing cases against Google and is looking into Amazon.

Such cases have been more difficult to pursue in the US, where the law is focused more on whether anti-competitive behaviour is keeping prices artificially high.

A group of younger progressive regulators and politicians have argued in recent years, however, that technology companies that give their services away for free but dominate their markets should come in for as much attention.....Rohit Chopra, a Federal Trade Commissioner in his mid-30s, for example, recently hired Lina Khan, a 29-year-old policy thinker who has argued that large technology companies can both bring prices down and be harmful to society in general.
Amazon  antitrust  AT&T  Big_Tech  competition_policy  corporate_concentration  Department_of_Justice  FAANG  Facebook  FTC  hiring  Lina_Khan  lawyers  lobbying  market_power  market_concentration  monopolies  platforms  regulation  regulators  revolving_door  under_the_radar 
december 2018 by jerryking
The Curse of Bigness by Timothy Wu — why size matters
NOVEMBER 15, 2018 | Financial Times | by Rana Foroohar
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, by Timothy Wu, Columbia Global Reports, RRP$14.99, 170 pages.

The hero of the book is Louis Brandeis, the advocate, reformer and Supreme Court Justice who grew up around the mid-to-late 1800s in Louisville, a diverse and decentralised mid-sized American town that Brandeis praised as “idyllic” and free from the “curse of bigness”...... It was a place where small farmers, retailers, professionals and manufacturers all knew each other, worked together, and had the sort of shared moral framework that Adam Smith believed was a key to well-functioning markets.

But by the time Brandeis himself became a lawyer in Boston, oligarchs such as John D Rockefeller and JP Morgan were building empires more powerful than governments (indeed, they often had paid politicians in their pockets — President William McKinley actually acknowledged that Wall Street rather than Washington had control over the economy). Their growing ventures — like Morgan’s railroad monopoly or Rockefeller’s oil dynasty — were neither moral nor even efficient. But the tycoons ....had bought the legislatures, and there was no one powerful enough to reel them in. Brandeis took them on, via a case against Morgan’s New Haven Railway, and exposed the underside of monopoly power — cartel pricing, bribes to officials, accounting fraud and so on....Brandeis believed giant corporations tended to rob people of their humanity....This approach, which was brought into the mainstream by conflicted trust buster Teddy Roosevelt (who both loved and loathed power, but wanted to see corporations curbed by government) lasted through the 1960s. But with the rise of conservative Chicago School academics, in particular Robert Bork, the federal justice who turned the “consumer welfare” ideology of his mentor Aaron Director into a new antitrust philosophy with his book The Antitrust Paradox in 1978, the notion that too much corporate power alone was problematic was abandoned. Antitrust become technocratic and weak, pegged to the idea that as long as companies reduced prices for consumers, they could be as big as they wanted.

That has, of course, allowed any number of industries, from airlines to media to pharmaceuticals, to reach unprecedented levels of concentration.
antitrust  books  book_reviews  Chicago_School  corporate_concentration  FAANG  Rana_Foroohar  Robert_Bork  Tim_Wu 
december 2018 by jerryking
Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea - The New York Times
By David Streitfeld
Sept. 7, 2018

....... Ms. Khan wrote, that once-robust monopoly laws have been marginalized, Amazon is consequently able to amass so much structural power that let it exert increasing control over many parts of the economy. Amazon has so much data on so many customers, it is so willing to forgo profits, it is so aggressive and has so many advantages from its shipping and warehouse infrastructure that it exerts an influence much broader than its market share. It resembles the all-powerful railroads of the Progressive Era, .......The F.T.C. is holding a series of hearings this fall, the first of their type since 1995, on whether a changing economy requires changing enforcement attitudes.

The hearings will begin on Sept. 13 at Georgetown University Law Center. Two panels will debate whether antitrust should keep its narrow focus or, as Ms. Khan urges, expand its range.

“Ideas and assumptions that it was heretical to question are now openly being contested,” she said. “We’re finally beginning to examine how antitrust laws, which were rooted in deep suspicion of concentrated private power, now often promote it.”........Her Yale Law Journal paper argued that monopoly regulators who focus on consumer prices are thinking too short-term. In Ms. Khan’s view, a company like Amazon — one that sells things, competes against others selling things, and owns the platform where the deals are done — has an inherent advantage that undermines fair competition. “The long-term interests of consumers include product quality, variety and innovation — factors best promoted through both a robust competitive process and open markets,” she wrote.

The issue Ms. Khan’s article really brought to the fore is this: Do we trust Amazon, or any large company, to create our future?........ “It’s so much easier to teach public policy to people who already know how to write than teach writing to public policy experts,” said Mr. Lynn, a former journalist.

Ms. Khan wrote about industry consolidation and monopolistic practices for Washington publications that specialize in policy, went to Yale Law School, published her Amazon paper and then came back to Washington last year, just as interest was starting to swell in her work.... the F.T.C. needs to bring back a tool buried in its toolbox: its ability to make rules......“Amazon is not the problem — the state of the law is the problem, and Amazon depicts that in an elegant way,” she said......“could make sense” to treat Amazon’s e-commerce operation like a bridge, highway, port, power grid or telephone network — all of which are required to allow access to their infrastructure on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Amazon  antitrust  breakthroughs  FTC  ideas  lawyers  Lina_Khan  monopolies  platforms  retailers  regulators  reframing  Yale 
september 2018 by jerryking
How Should Antitrust Regulators Check Silicon Valley’s Ambitions? - The New York Times
By Hernan Cristerna
July 3, 2018

The question is: At what point should regulators step in to check the ambitions of the tech giants--Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google? Those five companies hold considerable influence over the internet......the United States needs an approach to merger regulation that protects consumers by supporting transactions that create enterprises capable of standing head-to-head with the tech giants.

The decision to allow AT&T to acquire Time Warner is a step in this direction. So was the decision to approve Disney’s purchase of much of 21st Century Fox.

In a rapidly transforming marketplace, regulators should enable incumbents to stand up to the largest tech companies that are using new technologies — such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence — to upend existing industries.....
“Old economy” companies must be allowed to combine in order to increase their scale and innovation capabilities so that they are on a level playing field with the tech giants.....Regulators must now take notice of the verdict in the AT&T case so that they can calibrate their approach in the next round of transactions.
21st_Century_Fox  antitrust  regulation  regulators  platforms  Department_of_Justice  AT&T  Time_Warner  FAANG 
july 2018 by jerryking
The case for ending Amazon’s dominance
January 18, 2018 FT | Tim Harford.

Amazon offers:
* consumers, choice and convenience and a shopping search engine that is Google’s only serious rival,
* start-ups cheap, flexible cloud computing services to start and scale up.
competitors, e.g. Walmart tough competition,
* television networks, a tough competitor,
* Apple loyalists, a competing tablet computers at a price to make stop and think.

economists argue that corporate America is underinvesting.....rather than take a long-term view.......Amazon should be the shining counterexample....The online retailer’s strategy is driven not by short-term profit but by investment, innovation and growth. If only there were a few more companies like Amazon, capitalism would be in a happier spot. But there’s the rub: there aren’t more companies like it. It’s unique, and an increasingly terrifying force in online commerce. Should regulators act? If so, how?....

Begin by disposing of a poor argument: that Amazon must be challenged because it makes life miserable for its competitors, some of which are plucky mom-and-pop operations. However emotionally appealing this might seem, it should not be the business of regulators to prop up such businesses......Antitrust authorities should not be in the business of making life easy for incumbents. What, then, should they do? There are two schools of thought. One is to focus on consumers’ interest in quality, variety and price. This has been the standard approach in US antitrust policy for several decades. Since Amazon makes slim profits and charges low prices, it raises few antitrust questions.

The alternative view — which harks back to an earlier era of antitrust during which Standard Oil and later AT&T were broken up — argues that competition is inherently good even if it is hard to quantify a benefit to consumers and that society should be wary of large or dominant companies even if their behaviour seems benign. ....The narrowing in antitrust thinking is described by Lina Khan in a much-read article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”. Ms Khan berates modern antitrust thinking for its “hostility to false positives”.....Tim Harford disagrees, he shares modern antitrust’s hostility to false positives; there is a real cost to cumbersome and unnecessary meddling in a dynamic and rapidly evolving marketplace. US president Donald Trump’s history of publicly attacking Mr Bezos is worth pondering too: Harford asks, "do we really want the US government to have more discretion as to who is targeted, and why?"....Yet for all this,Tim Harford remains deeply uneasy about Amazon’s apparently unassailable position in online retail. Yes, customers are being well served at the moment. Yet the company has acquired formidable entrenched advantages, from the information about customers and the suppliers who sell through it, to the bargaining power it has over delivery companies, to the vast network of warehouses. Those advantages were earned, but they can also be abused.

Antitrust authorities face a difficult balancing act. Regulate Amazon and you may snuff out the innovation that we all say we want more of. Punish it for success and you send a strange message to entrepreneurs and investors. Ignore it and you risk leaving vital services in the hands of an invincible monopolist.

There are no easy options, but it is time to look for a way to split Amazon into two independent companies, each with the strength to grow and invest. If Amazon is such a wonderful company, wouldn’t two Amazons be even better?
Amazon  antitrust  AWS  contra-Amazon  competition  regulators  informational_advantages  Lina_Khan  mom-and-pop  platforms  predatory_practices  Tim_Harford 
january 2018 by jerryking
Disney Makes $52.4 Billion Deal for 21st Century Fox in Big Bet on Streaming
DEC. 14, 2017 | The New York Times | By BROOKS BARNES.

The Walt Disney Company said on Thursday that it had reached a deal to buy most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, the conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, in an all-stock transaction valued at roughly $52.4 billion.

While the agreement is subject to the approval of antitrust regulators — and the Justice Department recently moved to block a big media company from becoming even bigger — the once unthinkable acquisition promises to reshape Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It is the biggest counterattack from a traditional media company against the tech giants that have aggressively moved into the entertainment business.

Disney now has enough muscle to become a true competitor to Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook in the fast-growing realm of online video.
Disney  M&A  mergers_&_acquisitions  streaming  mass_media  antitrust  21st_Century_Fox  Department_of_Justice 
december 2017 by jerryking
Can the Tech Giants Be Stopped? -
July 14, 2017 | WSJ | By Jonathan Taplin.

Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech behemoths are transforming the U.S. economy and labor market, with scant public debate or scrutiny. Changing course won’t be easy....."we are rushing ahead into the AI universe with almost no political or policy debate about its implications. Digital technology has become critical to the personal and economic well-being of everyone on the planet, but decisions about how it is designed, operated and developed have never been voted on by anyone. Those decisions are largely made by executives and engineers at Google, Facebook, Amazon and other leading tech companies, and imposed on the rest of us with very little regulatory scrutiny. It is time for that to change.

Who will win the AI race? The companies that are already in the forefront: Google, Facebook and Amazon. As AI venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee recently wrote in the New York Times , “A.I. is an industry in which strength begets strength: The more data you have, the better your product; the better your product, the more data you can collect; the more data you can collect, the more talent you can attract; the more talent you can attract, the better your product.”".....How did we get here? I would date the rise of the digital monopolies to August 2004, when Google raised $1.9 billion in its initial public offering......This shift has brought about a massive reallocation of revenue, with economic value moving from the creators of content to the owners of monopoly platforms. Since 2000, revenues for recorded music in the U.S. have fallen from almost $20 billion a year to less than $8 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. U.S. newspaper ad revenue fell from $65.8 billion in 2000 to $23.6 billion in 2013 (the last year for which data are available). Though book publishing revenues have remained flat, this is mostly because increased children’s book sales have made up for the declining return on adult titles.....The precipitous decline in revenue for content creators has nothing to do with changing consumer preferences for their content. People are not reading less news, listening to less music, reading fewer books or watching fewer movies and TV shows. The massive growth in revenue for the digital monopolies has resulted in the massive loss of revenue for the creators of content. The two are inextricably linked......In the third quarter of 2016, companies owned by Facebook or Google took 90% of all new digital ad revenue. ....The history of Silicon Valley itself offers some guidance here. The astonishing technological revolution of the past half-century would never have occurred without the impetus of three seminal antitrust prosecutions. ....The clear historical lesson, which is waiting to be rediscovered in our own day, is that antitrust action has often served not to constrain innovation but to promote it.
Apple  Alphabet  Big_Tech  Google  Amazon  Microsoft  Facebook  artificial_intelligence  privacy  antitrust  Silicon_Valley  content  platforms  virtuous_cycles  content_creators  public_discourse  oligopolies  oversight  value_migration  regulation  innovation  seminal  no_oversight  imperceptible_threats  FAANG  backlash  Kai-Fu_Lee 
july 2017 by jerryking
Conglomerates Didn’t Die. They Look Like Amazon. - The New York Times
Andrew Ross Sorkin
DEALBOOK JUNE 19, 2017

Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods re-opens the debate about conglomerates which supposed to be dead, a relic of a bygone era of corporate America as investors supposedly want smaller, nimbler, more focused companies......Amazon is just one of several digital-economy conglomerates. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is another. Facebook is quickly becoming a conglomerate, too...... today’s tech-enabled conglomerates, are spending, and often losing, tens of billions of dollars annually on all sorts of projects and acquisitions that may or may not turn out to be successful. But investors are seemingly willing to give these new behemoths a free pass in the name of growth and innovation — until they aren’t.

If there is any lesson from the last breed of industrial conglomerates, it is that there is a natural life cycle to most of them....When it comes to Amazon (or Alphabet, or any of the new conglomerates), the question is whether there is something fundamentally different about these businesses given their grounding in digital information — especially as they expand into complex brick-and-mortar operations like upscale supermarkets.

In an age of big data and artificial intelligence, are businesses that look disparate really similar? And can one company’s leadership really oversee so many different businesses? When does it become too big to manage?...a recent article in the Yale Law Journal made a compelling case that Amazon has built perhaps the ultimate economic mousetrap — one impervious to the natural life cycle of a conglomerate, but one that might ultimately prove to be anticompetitive.

The author, Lina M. Khan, a Yale Law student who has written about antitrust law and competition policy, argued that Amazon had created a “platform market” and can use its size and scale to subsidize its entrance into new businesses through predatory pricing.....The economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits,.....Amazon’s role as both a distributor and cloud provider for many of its competitors gives it an unfair advantage. “This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors,”.....Jeff Bezos, is clear. The man who is assembling the 21st century’s most fearsome new conglomerate once explained his view of competition this way: “Your margin is my opportunity.”
conglomerates  Andrew_Sorkin  Jeff_Bezos  Amazon  GE  Jeff_Immelt  unfair_advantages  Whole_Foods  Silicon_Valley  digital_economy  Alphabet  Facebook  lessons_learned  Yale  Charles_Munger  antitrust  competition  Berkshire_Hathaway  platforms  predatory_practices  diversification  FTC  margins  staying_hungry  life_cycle  Lina_Khan  competition_policy 
june 2017 by jerryking
The Amazon-Walmart Showdown That Explains the Modern Economy - The New York Times
Neil Irwin @Neil_Irwin JUNE 16, 2017

The decision by Amazon and Walmart to compete for my grocery business — as well as for space in my closet — is a tiny battle in a war to dominate a changing global economy.

And for companies that can’t compete on price and technology, it could cost them the shirt off their backs.....[Amazon's purchase of high-end grocery chain Whole Foods places it] on a collision course with Walmart to try to be the predominant seller of pretty much everything you buy.

Each one is trying to become more like the other — Walmart by investing heavily in its technology, Amazon by opening physical bookstores and now buying physical supermarkets. But this is more than a battle between two business titans. Their rivalry sheds light on the shifting economics of nearly every major industry, replete with winner-take-all effects and huge advantages that accrue to the biggest and best-run organizations, to the detriment of upstarts and second-fiddle players.....in turn...this has more worrying implications for jobs, wages and inequality.

Amazon vs. Walmart

Both want to sell everything!!!!

Walmart is buying Bonobos, an omnichannel innovator. Its website and online customer service are excellent, and it operates stores in major cities where you can try on garments and order items to be shipped directly. Because all the actual inventory is centralized, the stores themselves can occupy minimal square footage. The acquisition helps Walmart build expertise in the very areas where it is trying to gain on Amazon.

Walmart and Amazon have had their sights on each other for years, each aiming to be the dominant seller of goods via omnichannel.

Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods helps it to understand the grocery business which has a whole different set of challenges from the types of goods that Amazon has specialized in heretofore.

A Positive Returns-to-Scale World
The apparel business has long been a highly competitive industry in which countless players could find a niche.....any shirt-maker that tried to get too big rapidly faced diminishing returns.It would have to pay more and more to lease the real estate for far-flung stores, and would have to outbid competitors to hire all the experienced shirt-makers. The expansion wouldn’t offer any meaningful cost savings and would entail a lot more headaches trying to manage it all....in the digital economy, rather than reflecting those diminishing returns to scale, show positive returns to scale: The biggest companies have a huge advantage over smaller players. That tends to tilt markets toward a handful of players or even a monopoly....The apparel industry...is moving in the direction of being like the software business (high fixed costs, zero variable costs, enormous returns to scale)..... the reason why Walmart and Amazon are so eager get into the shirt business is because retailers know that they need to figure out how to manage sophisticated supply chains connecting Southeast Asia with stores in big American cities so that they rarely run out of product. They need mobile apps and websites that offer a seamless user experience so that nothing stands between a would-be purchaser and an order....Larger companies that are good at supply chain management and technology can spread those more-or-less fixed costs around more total sales, enabling them to keep prices lower than a niche player and entrench their advantage....large companies will invest in automation/robotics...the future of clothing/apparel might be a handful of companies with the very expensive shirt-making robots---and everyone else shut out in the cold.

What It Means for the Economy

A relative few winners are taking a disproportionate share of business in a wide range of industries....in turn may help explain why the income gap has widened in recent years. How much on income inequality is driven by shifting technology — as opposed to changing corporate behavior, or loose antitrust policy — is an open debate.
increasing_returns_to_scale  winner-take-all  fixed_costs  variable_costs  Amazon  Wal-Mart  Whole_Foods  retailers  economics  Bonobos  shirts  mens'_clothing  omnichannel  apparel  digital_economy  automation  robotics  competitive_landscape  market_concentration  barbell_effect  income_inequality  antitrust  market_power  corporate_concentration  grocery  fresh_produce  supermarkets  large_companies  UX  inventory-free  global_economy 
june 2017 by jerryking
Where Have All the Black-Owned Businesses Gone? - The Atlantic
BRIAN S. FELDMAN MAY 1, 2017

The last 30 years also have brought the wholesale collapse of black-owned independent businesses and financial institutions that once anchored black communities across the country. In 1985, 60 black-owned banks were providing financial services to their communities; today, just 23 remain. In 11 states where black-owned banks had headquarters in 1994, not a single one is still in business. Of the 50 black-owned insurance companies that operated during the 1980s, today just two remain.

Over the same period, tens of thousands of black-owned retail establishments and local service companies also have disappeared, having gone out of business or been acquired by larger companies. Reflecting these developments, working-age black Americans have become far less likely to be their own boss than in the 1990s. The per-capita number of black employers, for example, declined by some 12 percent just between 1997 and 2014.......the decline in entrepreneurship and business ownership among black Americans also is cause for concern. ...market concentration has played a role in suppressing opportunity and in displacing local economies. ...........The role of market concentration in inhibiting black-owned businesses is also troubling because of the critical role that such enterprises have played in organizing and financing the struggle for civil rights in America......The decline of black-owned independent businesses traces back to many causes, but a major one that has been little noted was the decline in the enforcement of anti-monopoly and fair-trade laws beginning in the late 1970s......Bob Dickerson, the CEO of the Birmingham Business Resource Center in Alabama, says, “Had our institutions and businesses been maintained, had that money been plowed back into our communities, it could have meant a world of difference.”

The role of market concentration in driving down the number of black-owned independent businesses becomes all the more concerning when one considers some mostly forgotten history. In principles, people, and tactics, the fight for black civil rights, going back to before the Civil War, was often deeply intertwined and aligned with America’s anti-monopoly traditions......The story of how the struggle for civil rights intertwined and intersected historically with the struggle against monopoly provides a lesson for the future. It suggests a need to recognize how political independence connects with economic independence in the struggle for social justice. Without freedom from domination in one sphere, there is no freedom in the other.
black-owned  African-Americans  business  segregation  New_Deal  Jim_Crow  market_concentration  fair-trade  anti-monopoly  enforcement  market_power  corporate_concentration  antitrust  anticompetitive_behaviour  collapse-anxiety 
may 2017 by jerryking
With Competition in Tatters, the Rip of Inequality Widens - The New York Times
Eduardo Porter
ECONOMIC SCENE JULY 12, 2016

The new merger amounts to another step in the long decline of competition in many American industries.

It is a decline that stunts entrepreneurship, hinders workers’ mobility and slows productivity growth. Slowing this trend has emerged as a tempting new avenue to address the plight of a beleaguered working class. Reviving flagging American competition might even help stop America’s ever-widening inequality.

In April, President Obama issued an executive order calling on government agencies to look for ways to bolster competition in the industries they monitor.....There is plenty of evidence that corporate concentration is on the rise. Mr. Furman and Mr. Orszag report that between 1997 and 2007 the market share of the 50 largest companies increased in three-fourths of the broad industry sectors followed by the census......Studies have found increased concentration in agricultural businesses and wireless communications as well.....but is competition policy about increasing the economy’s efficiency, or is it about changing the distribution of the spoils....should antitrust be a major tool for addressing inequality?....How did the American economy get so concentrated? Technology surely helped. Tech giants like Google and Facebook benefit from economies of scale and network effects. ....Government watchdogs also messed up....How to fix corporate concentration? In industries perceived to be fairly concentrated, presume future mergers will be anticompetitive, take the burden of proof off the regulator’s shoulders and putting the onus on the merging companies to prove it is not....Regulations can also be tool: How about demanding that the FDA approve generic drugs more quickly?
competition  antitrust  monopolies  anticompetitive_behaviour  collusion  market_power  corporate_concentration  economies_of_scale  network_effects  platforms  income_inequality  regulators  regulation  competition_policy 
july 2016 by jerryking
When Media Mergers Limit More Than Competition - NYTimes.com
James B. Stewart, a columnist for The New York Times, explores the antitrust concerns related to a potential deal between Time Warner Inc. and 21st Century Fox. Publish Date July 25, 2014.
antitrust  consolidation  mergers_&_acquisitions  M&A  deal-making  regulation  21st_Century_Fox  competitive_landscape 
july 2014 by jerryking
Google's Turn to Quake? - WSJ.com
April 4, 2012 | WSJ | By ROBERT HAHN.

Google's Turn to Quake? IBM and Microsoft fought antitrust authorities on multiple continents, even as they lost their fleeting dominance....Antitrust policy is built on the notion that market concentration, collusion or nasty behavior toward rivals undermines efficiency by allowing producers to charge more and to block innovation. That's not a bad rule of thumb for "old economy" industries. Before Japanese auto makers broke through the barriers, Detroit charged too much, divvying up most of the surplus between workers and managers. Worse—much worse—auto industry technology and productivity stagnated, as stakeholders sheltered their pockets of privilege from the winds of change.

But high-tech industries in general, and information technology industries in particular, are an entirely different sort of beast. Market concentration and huge profits are typically a consequence of economies of scale and returns to intellectual property, not monopoly power. (It costs no more to produce 10 million copies of Microsoft Office than 10 copies.) And while the management of the current crop of winning companies may be as eager as monopolists of yore to bar the doors to rivals, rapid technological change denies them the opportunity.
Google  IBM  Microsoft  antitrust  competition  competitive_landscape  increasing_returns_to_scale  collusion  market_power  corporate_concentration  monopolies  economies_of_scale  intellectual_property  automotive_industry  productivity  winner-take-all  market_concentration  technological_change  returns_to_intellectual_property 
april 2012 by jerryking
Schmidt Defends Google in Hearing - WSJ.com
Sept. 22, 2011 | WSJ | By THOMAS CATAN And SIOBHAN HUGHES
Google  Eric_Schmidt  antitrust  FTC 
september 2011 by jerryking
Crovitz: Antitrust Laws Don’t Make Sense with 21st Century Technology - WSJ.com
AUGUST 3, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | By L. GORDON
CROVITZ. The Antitrust Anachronism: When will technology’s ever faster
cycles of creative destruction spell the end of antitrust law? The
Sherman Act and later antitrust laws were supposed to protect consumer
interests. That’s not so easy when regulators have to deal with
industries as different as oil, with its cartels and long product
cycles, and technology, where fast change is a constant necessity for
survival....the traditional approach to antitrust makes no sense in an
industry like technology, in which new entrants routinely topple
seemingly invincible market leaders....Scale matters...The size of the
audience is important...The bottom line is that by the time regulators
can assess a technology market, the market has often moved on.

*
antitrust  competition  21st._century  product_cycles  creative_destruction  regulation  L._Gordon_Crovtiz  constant_change  scaling  new_entrants  accelerated_lifecycles  regulators  market_leadership  cartels  consumer_protection  consumer_interests  market_sizing 
august 2010 by jerryking

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