The FTC argues that Amazon’s market power inhibits the ability of competitors to enter the retail superstore marketplace. Such concerns are likely overblown. The striking similarities between Amazon and previous market giants deserve consideration. Let’s compare Amazon with Sears. Both companies started by selling one product; for Amazon, it was books, and for Sears, it was watches. Both sold directly to consumers, Sears by mail-order and Amazon in the digital marketplace. Like today’s perception of Amazon, Sears became a goliath in the marketplace. While only beginning brick-and-mortar operations in 1925, Sears quickly grew to 300 department stores by 1929. By 1969, Sears’s retail sales accounted for one percent of the entire US economy. By 1975, along with JC Penney and Montgomery Ward, Sears had 43 percent of all department store sales.
Where is this goliath today? In 2005, Sears merged with Kmart, as both companies sought their best, and potentially only, hope to ward off their rapidly expanding rival. Amazon? No, Walmart, which “by 1991 topped Sears as the biggest US retailer by sales.” Yes, that same Walmart, that the FTC no longer recognizes as a viable competitor to Amazon in the digital marketplace. Even with 4,000 stores in 2012, Sears could not compete with Walmart’s superior business model and declared bankruptcy in 2018.
In October 1973, OPEC announced a 5 percent production cut and an oil embargo against the United States. Lines sprang up at service stations in major cities, with panicked drivers, even those with half-full tanks, waiting sometimes for hours to fill up. Price ceilings intended to protect consumers did not accomplish their task.
The month after the embargo, price controls for crude oil and oil products were codified in the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973, preventing the higher prices that would have stopped panic buying. This counterfactual was well recognized by free-market economists. But a different story, harking back to late nineteenth century angst against Big Oil, emerged. Catch words? Profiteering … the danger of foreign oil…. the need for a comprehensive energy policy.
The saga ended with President Reagan’s decontrol order in early 1981. Oil prices headed down, and the new crisis was for oil and gas producers, not consumers. The 1980s saw us turning away from notions of Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas.
Megan McArdle reports on the Republican party’s on-going self-evisceration. Here’s her conclusion:
The fact that Democrats have a long list of things they want to accomplish doesn’t just give them a nice hobby to occupy their time in Congress; it holds their coalition together. To do stuff, they need their majority, which is why even their radicals generally prove willing to settle for half a loaf. So Democratic legislators have relationships built on getting things done. Republican legislators increasingly have relationships built on denouncing each other as RINOs or “legislative terrorists.”
This is the dynamic that saw Rep. Matt Gaetz and seven other Republicans banding with Democrats to depose a Republican House speaker. It’s the dynamic that makes it difficult for them to agree on Jordan or anyone else. And until Republicans find something to fill the void, this sucking black hole will consume more and more of their politics, collapsing their party inward on itself — and, ironically, empowering Democrats.
Evangelist Billy Graham said he thought that presidents are divinely chosen, but he also believed that the Almighty needed his assistance in 1968. More peripatetic than consequential, Graham fawned over Johnson, who almost seems to have favored Nixon, as Graham did. Graham, however, called Wallace “one of the finest orators of the twentieth century.” This judgment was an anticipation of evangelicals jettisoning their standards in 2016.
Among the most shocking developments as the pandemic dragged on was the degree of coercion and force used by some of the best known champions of democracy and liberty. The boundary between liberal democracy and draconian dictatorship proved to be virus thin. Tools of repression like unleashing heavily armed cops on peacefully protesting citizens, once the identifying traits of fascists, communists and tin-pot despots, became uncomfortably familiar on the streets of Western democracies.
Lockdowns destroyed the three ‘Ls’ of lives, livelihoods and liberties. Governments effectively stole nearly three years of our life. Pre-emptive press self-censorship helped to normalise the rise of the surveillance-cum-biosecurity state in the name of keeping us safe from the virus that is so deadly that hundreds of millions had to be tested to know they’ve had it. Canada’s Freedom Convoy laid bare the stark reality that lockdowns are a class war waged by the laptop class on the working class, by the cultural elites on the great unwashed outside urban centres, and by the virtue signallers on independent free thinkers.