Fast Company: 6 experts on how capitalism will emerge after COVID-19

June 11, 2020 Media

One of the biggest challenges—which we have seen exacerbated by the pandemic—is the question of Amazon: just the sheer amount of economic and political power that it has generated for Jeff Bezos. We also do a lot of work on Facebook and Google. These three [companies] are some of the most dangerous monopolies from a societal and democratic perspective. Our regulators—our government—have allowed them to monopolize advertising markets.

You’ve seen the sheer power of Amazon as an intermediary in the economy between businesses and consumers. You’ve seen them make decisions on who can sell and who can’t sell, on what’s essential and what’s not essential. You’ve seen them leverage their political power to abuse workers and prevent them from working safely. Most recently, you saw Amazon tell the House Judiciary Committee [which requested testimony from Bezos on Amazon’s anticompetitive business practices], essentially, to go to hell. That just shows the culture of disrespect for democracy that monopolists tend to carry along with them. And then you top it off with stories that Bezos might become a trillionaire in seven years. Is that really the kind of economic and political power that we want our economy to generate for a single person?

At the same time, there’s more awareness across the board that [concentrating power in the private sector] is a problem, that this crisis is going to make it worse, and that government has a role to play. [There’s awareness] that we’re going to probably come out on the other side of this with a decimated small-business sector and more power in the largest corporations.

Whether we like it or not, the economy is getting restructured, and our democratic institutions have a role to play. There’s not any single-bullet solution to it: There’s no Dodd-Frank Act to deal with concentrated private power. It really is about a reorientation of priorities and relearning how to use and create new tools in government to address it. And that’s going to take a lot of research, a lot of investigations, and a confrontational approach to monopolies. This broadly shared ideology of “Uh, we shouldn’t punish success”—that huge, powerful companies bestow great benefits, or that we can keep them under control through various checks on their power—just isn’t a sustainable or safe path.