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We continue to get email about the proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, in favor of new regulations that would require the breakup of Amazon, as well as other giant technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Warren’s proposal, if implemented, would mean that Amazon could no longer operate an online marketplace on which other companies could sell their products and also be a retailer on that same platform. The proposal “calls for the appointment of regulators who would “unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,” as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

One MNB reader wrote:

Regarding your coverage of Sen. Warren's Amazon comments, I had an interesting experience to share from this morning. I was listening to my daily Amazon Flash Briefing and Reuters had what must have been a 30 second clip of Sen. Warren taking aim at Amazon and other tech giants, but mostly Amazon. I found it a bit ironic to be hearing about the "evils" of Amazon on the Alexa platform in their own ecosystem.  At the same time, it was heartening to know that Amazon did not censor content that was critical of their entire operating model. If Sen. Warren's campaign and views pick up any momentum, it will be interesting to see if Amazon maintains this hands-off approach.

I don’t think there’s any question that Amazon will be hands-off about this. If Amazon were to start censoring this kind of coverage, it would just reaffirm that its critics are right about it having too much power. (Jeff Bezos’ acquisition and support of the Washington Post amply demonstrates, I think, his belief in the critical role of a free and independent Fourth Estate, even when it reports on personal peccadilloes that he’d probably not have exposed to the light of day.)

By the way … it was interesting - and not entirely surprising - to see that Facebook took down online ads from the Warren campaign promoting her tech breakup proposal. It later put them back up and made a lame excuse for why they were deleted, but I suspect that the move tells us a lot about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.

From another reader:

Not sure what I'm missing... even as a split company with two sites (one Marketplace, one proprietary Retail), I don't think there's any less pressure on competitively priced products, and there's certainly no immediate impact on the number of products carried in total. I think there's a smidgen (technical term) of a chance that the Marketplace site might end up with lower customer service standards as Amazon shifts away from focusing on that 'rent collection' business and more on the proprietary stuff like AmazonBasics where they can make 40% margins instead of 12%.

Yesterday I commented:

First of all, I want to again be clear - I disagree with Warren’s proposal.

But I do think that it is important to remember that the impetus for this proposal is Warren’s belief - which she has held for decades - that mainstream consumers are not always best served by a kind of capitalism in which small companies are unable to compete, and that sometimes government needs to preserve as level a playing field as possible. I think this is a legitimate subject for discussion, even if I disagree with her prescription to address it.

I don’t think this is about her being a Socialist, or wanting to take away personal freedoms. I think she’s wrong, but I also think that political campaigns are where ideas and proposals get advanced and then discussed, analyzed and judged. In an ideal world, there is nuance and thought applied to these conversations, and when we come out on the other end, voters are able to make informed decisions about who makes sense and who does not.

I’d pay money for a pay-per-view forum, for example, in which Warren sat down with Jeff Bezos to chat about her proposal. Not argue. Just talk. It’d be really interesting, and might raise the public consciousness.


Which prompted another MNB reader to write:

Thanks once again for being a voice of reason and wisdom as well as reminding us to be as quick to listen and understand as to be instantly critical. The sharing, exchange and consideration of opposing viewpoints can actually lead to beneficial change instead of the gridlock we so often experience. Unfortunately, nuance and thought, like common sense, are not so common these days.

I think my wife and kids always find it amazing - and maybe a little laughable - when I’m described as being a “voice of reason and wisdom.” Thanks, though … you make me look better than I am.
KC's View: