Tom and Jerry: Capitalism!

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It seems that several large countries have their knives out and are ready to exact “financial” revenge on major technology companies. After the harsh $15 billion tax fine imposed on Apple by Irish authorities, there was a fine of $5 billion on Google by European Union regulators for breaking antitrust laws.

Now that the Amazon electronic commerce company has become one of the world’s largest companies, all eyes are focused on it and its owner, Jeff Bezos the stepson of a Cuban immigrant who is now the wealthiest American, richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Amazon’s success is due to the fact that it has become an electronic retailer that gives consumers a choice, breaking up the strong monopoly of retail sales. The company has become directly responsible for the closing of hundreds of stores in different locations around the world, turning it into, as some think, a ghoul that limits the growth of competitors. As a result, lawmakers are now focusing their attention on the company.

There is a constant concern and suspicion among Western lawmakers about the issue of monopoly and history attests to this. In the wake of the Great Depression in America, US authorities broke up “big” companies in the banking and energy sectors and others into smaller companies to create a new competitive environment. The same approach was followed by General Douglas MacArthur, who led the Western alliance to defeat Japan in World War II, when he broke up major Japanese companies into a number of smaller companies.

Perhaps the most recent example of the breakup of a major company was what happened to AT&T as it was broken up into a number of smaller companies due to its unfair telephone monopoly.

Today, there seems to be political “preparation” underway for dealing with the monopoly status of Amazon. President Donald Trump has escalated the attack through his critical comments, for example, by accusing the company of tax evasion. However, such criticism cannot be separated from Trump’s hostile attitude to The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, which is known for its sharp criticism of the policies and decisions of the US administration.

There are legitimate worries that with regard to companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft, anti-monopoly accusations are actually a punishment for their great success and growth. The brutality of capitalism is sometimes curtailed by nationalism and by fragmentation, and by hard financial sanctions. Today’s governments have become bolder and smarter in tracking capital and its sources in the name of reducing tax evasion and sometimes limiting growth. But capital, as well as being a coward, is able to re-adapt and reinvent itself in other situations. It is the endless conflict between capital and legislation.


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