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Make Amazon a public utility

I haven't fully read this paper by Lina Khan yet, let alone fully digested it. But there's something in there that i think i'm going to like, so i'm blogging it here so i don't forget about it (and to share, ofc). Whenever i read people worrying about Amazon becoming a monopoly. Because, i looooove Amazon. I can't conceive of a more simple way to buy... everything, and i'd really hate it if Amazon were broken up and i had to go to multiple websites to shop.

But of course i also recognize that concentrated power is bad in general. For Amazon, that means that once it's driven all of its competitors out of business it might finally raise prices (to the point where it might actually become profitable).

My solution to this has always been to simply nationalize it, but of course i am a socialist loon. So it's nice to see a Yale academic, among other points, making a similar, but less extreme argument (as one of two possible solutions, the other being anti-trust action). The idea is to regulate Amazon as a public utility:

Although largely out of fashion today, public utility regulations were widely adopted in the early 1900s, as a way of regulating the technologies of the industrial age...

Given that Amazon increasingly serves as essential infrastructure across the internet economy, applying elements of public utility regulations to its business is worth considering. The most common public utility policies are (1) requiring nondiscrimination in price and service, (2) setting limits on rate-setting, and (3) imposing capitalization and investment requirements. Of these three traditional policies, nondiscrimination would make the most sense, while rate-setting and investment requirements would be trickier to implement and, perhaps, would less obviously address an outstanding deficiency.

...A nondiscrimination policy that prohibited Amazon from privileging its own goods and from discriminating among producers and consumers would be significant. Given that many of the most notable anticompetitive concerns around Amazon's business structure arise from its vertical integration and the resulting conflicts of interest, applying a nondiscrimination scheme would curb the anticompetitive risk.

Matt Stoller has a tl;dr tweetstorm if the paper is too much.

By fnord12 | February 13, 2017, 5:21 PM | Liberal Outrage