We Are In The New Age of Monopolies?

Apple is in court defending itself in a complicated antitrust trial. Amazon is being sued by the D.C. Attorney General alleging that Amazon wields monopoly power that resulted in higher prices for consumers. Microsoft has been sued 3 times in the last 30 years.

Are monopolies a bad idea? I’m not sure. The issue is complicated because today’s monopolies control a lot of our personal and private data.  We spend so much time on their platforms and give them so much information about our preferences, our locations, the credit cards we use, etc.  Are they friendly giants, or do we have something to worry about?  There was an issue recently whereby US military movements in Syria were revealed by location info available for purchase from smartphone apps. This included enough information to identify the location of an undeclared US military base in Syria. If that information was in the hands of our enemy, they would always be one step ahead of us and cost us the lives of our soldiers. But on the other hand, they help us by knowing what we want, showing suggested products that fit our profile, introduce us to new products or services we might want, and they save us time.  All good right? So, when does a good thing turn bad?  When they control and know so much more about our preferences.  When they can track us on our mobile devices and on our computers.  In January 2020, Apple (iOS)controlled 1.4 Billion devices worldwide and Google (Android) controlled 2.5Billion. Therein lies the problem. Can we trust them with our information?

Are Our Monopolies Good or Bad?

Clearly, our monopolies are a different breed than the last century when it was necessary to break up the conglomerates such as Standard Oil, that restrained trade and controlled prices. In fact, our monopolies have a favorable opinion in the minds of today’s consumers.  In December of 2020, a survey was conducted by The Verge. The results: Amazon had the highest rating with an approval rate of 91%, followed by Google’s 90% and Apple’s 81%.   That’s impressive considering they are in court defending their business policies.

Microsoft was the first mega tech company to be sued for antitrust violations in 1992, 1994, and 1998.  The company is still intact, giving up some concessions, but time proves that consumers feel good about the company with an 89% approval rating, and there is plenty of competition in word processing software programs including Google and Apple.  The approval rating also shows trust in their protection of our privacy.  Only time will tell.

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