One of the weakest Saturday essays I can
recall. Redefine the word monopoly and voila. My favorite...
"A monopoly like Google is different. Since it doesn't have
to worry about competing with anyone, it has wider latitude
to care about its workers, its products and its impact on
the wider world." Interesting article, but it is missing the
major point about monopolies. If a company develops a
monopoly position (little or no competition) by offering a
superior good or service at a fair price in a free market,
then that is good for the company, shareholders, customers,
and public. But if the company develops the monopoly through
government cronyism and coercion, then that is bad for all
but the shareholders. Unfortunately, most monopolies are
generated through government coercion and interference, and
therefore are bad. The articles does have this: "To an
economist, every monopoly looks the same, whether it
deviously eliminates rivals, secures a license from the
state or innovates its way to the top. I'm not interested in
illegal bullies or government favorites: By "monopoly," I
mean the kind of company that is so good at what it does
that no other firm can offer a close substitute."
One of the finest pieces of economic ignorance in decades.
There is no such thing as a market monopoly. Only
governments can create monopolies, through regulations (even
supposedly innocuous ones like patent protections and
licensing laws). Mr Thiel is either making up his own
definition of monopoly, or he got his ideas from the board
game of the same name. Google as an example of a) a company
without competition and b) that takes ethics seriously is
ridiculous. It's easy, perhaps, to forget about companies
like Apple, whose products directly compete (mobile
operating systems, devices, mobile search, mapping, cloud
storage). Only slightly more understandable is the glaring
oversight of Google's complicity with foreign governments
who demand censorship of search and video content, access to
emails, and other "evil" practices. Of course, ending with a
quote from "Anna Karenina" lends far greater gravitas than
had Mr Thiel quoted an actual economics sage such as
Rothbard or von Mises.
Although the author
is too sanguine about monopolies, I disagree with you.
Railroads are market monopolies, and provide much better
service than when they were tightly regulated prior to 1981.
Standard Oil was also largely a market monopoly, although
clearly a pernicious one. Government sponsored monopolies
(Comcast comes to mind) clearly are disasters for consumers,
however. The only ethics Google pays attention to are its
own desires to control the population. Schmidt once
basically said the general public were a bunch of sheep that
had to be guided, by Google of course. Sergey Brin has the
same attitude. They are a bunch of arrogant control freaks.