Posts Tagged monopoly

Monopolies and Competition: Mom! Dad! AT&T’s Not Sharing!

AT&T, T-Mobile, cell phone, acquisition, monopoly, competitionIn my most recent post at Ethika Politika, I comment on AT&T’s recent plans to acquire T-Mobile, a move that has garnered cries of “monopoly!” (or “duopoly!”) from all sides.

But although many see AT&T’s actions as “anti-competitive” in nature, I see no such thing. From where I stand, the acquisition has great potential to improve the company’s output, which could indeed benefit consumers and invigorate competition in the industry:

With a newly expanded network, AT&T could greatly improve its ability to expand service to rural areas. Due to increased economies of scale, it is likely that prices could decrease across the board. Additionally, although critics claim that the tightening of the market will have a negative impact on innovation, many believe it will raise the stakes (“mono y mono!”), leading to improvements on any number of company weak spots, from customer service to overall quality of service.

Yet whether the deal will be good or bad for (anyone’s) business is secondary; such matters remain debatable. The core issue, as I see it, rests in the mindset of those who adamantly oppose the deal on limited evidence, particularly those trying to prohibit it from happening altogether.

As I argue, the problems with such a mindset can be broken into three main areas: (1) a fear of competition itself, (2) a misunderstanding of the company-consumer relationship, and (3) a corresponding pessimism and all-around static view of human ingenuity and potential.

I expound on each, but regarding the third (and most important), here’s an excerpt:

Do we really believe that markets are that unmovable, or that we as innovators, explorers, and dreamers do not have what it takes to meet whatever challenges and needs may arise? Are we really so short-sighted that we Read the rest of this entry »

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Freedom from Porn: Steve Jobs Shapes Culture

Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs wants to offer "freedom from porn" to his consumers.

Steve Jobs has been making waves by saying that he wants the iPad and other Apple products to be “porn-free.”

Jobs has offered several reasons for this, but all of his statements seem to indicate a general desire to shape the culture of his company, as well as its consumers.

For a glimpse into Jobs’ views on the matter, I recommend reading his e-mail exchange with blogger Ryan Tate, which seems to be getting the most attention from the media.

Tate began the exchange by sending Jobs an e-mail that said the following:

“If [Bob] Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution’? Revolutions are about freedom.”

Surprisingly, Jobs actually responded to Tate’s e-mail, and his response included this jab:

“Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’, and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.”

There are plenty of interesting facets to this situation — particularly regarding the recent goings on between Apple and Adobe — but what I want to focus on is Jobs’ statement about “freedom from porn.” What strikes me is that it echoes a Biblical concept that plenty of Christians don’t even grasp. I doubt that Jobs is rooting his worldview in the Bible (he’s a Buddhist), but I think it’s encouraging to see such a prominent figure making these arguments.

Many “liberation” types argue that freedom means the right to do anything you want, which may be true from a purely literal perspective. But holistically speaking, the Bible depicts freedom as something a bit more complex. In the Bible, real freedom isn’t as much about Read the rest of this entry »

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The Monopoly Myth: Alex Epstein on Rockefeller and Standard Oil

Cartoonist Horace Taylor depicts Rockefeller.

In my review of Ron Chernow’s Titan, I mentioned the controversy surrounding the so-called monopolistic tactics of John D. Rockefeller.

For example, I said the following:

Rockefeller is often disdained as one of the nineteenth-century robber barons who greedily pursued money and power by sucking up innocent competitors, gouging consumers, and starving employees.

I did not, however, go into too much detail about whether such claims are actually well founded. I did say Rockefeller did things that were “cringe-worthy,” but in the business world many ethical and justifiable things can be uncomfortable to behold no matter how good or necessary they may be.

As a follow-up, I wanted to point you toward this lecture, in which Alex Epstein uses the example of Rockefeller and Standard Oil to debunk what he calls the “Monopoly Myth.”

The gist of the Epstein’s argument is that in a free society a monopoly like Rockefeller’s cannot be maintained without continuing to offer superior value.

For example, many people criticize Rockefeller for gouging consumers through predatory pricing, but such claims are factually inaccurate. It was in Rockefeller’s best interest to keep prices as low as possible. As I mentioned in my review, Rockefeller was not swayed by gobs of money and the instantaneous pleasures it could afford him. Rather, he was restrained by his ultimate goal of achieving maximum efficiency and superiority in the oil industry. In other Read the rest of this entry »

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John D. Rockefeller: Lover of Money or Enterprise?

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow

When people talk about John D. Rockefeller they all seem to say something different. Some talk about Rockefeller the innovative entrepreneur, some talk about Rockefeller the back-dealing monopolist, and some talk about Rockefeller the charitable do-gooder.

From being derided as the devil of modern industry to being hailed as the saint of modern philanthropy, Rockefeller always was, and still remains, a controversial figure.

It’s no surprise then that Ron Chernow’s biography of the man (aptly titled Titan) paints a picture no less diverse. Chernow takes us chronologically from Rockefeller’s backwater beginnings to his astounding rise to wealth, focusing all the while on what made the man tick.

Sounds all too familiar, right? A man with humble beginnings overcomes all odds to become a happy and successful family man. But what is so unique about Rockefeller is the extent to which he did not change despite his rapid rise to fame. Certainly he evolved in many regards, but as a father, as a husband, as a worker, and as a tither, we see the same moral framework from beginning to end.

That’s right. There is no “Bathsheba moment” of weakness, no interlude of repentant exile, and no climactic epiphany that “money doesn’t buy happiness.” In a way, what is most boring about Rockefeller’s life is also what is so fascinating about it.

Some people believe that money can change you, but for Rockefeller, the key to success was not letting that happen.

John D. Rockefeller at age 18.

Rockefeller’s childhood was not a dainty one. His father, William A. Rockefeller, was known around town as “Wild Bill” for being a notorious liar, thief, and scam artist. He was also a womanizer and a bigamist. When Rockefeller was eighteen, Wild Bill permanently ditched the family for his other wife under the pretense of cross-country “business.” Before leaving, he told the young Rockefeller, “I shall be away and must rely on your judgment.”

Whether his father knew it or not (and Chernow thinks he did), Rockefeller’s judgment could definitely be trusted, and from that day forward, young John flourished as the new “paterfamilias” of his mother’s home. This triggered similar success in the business world, as Rockefeller worked hard to fill the gaps his father left. Chernow calls it an “exquisite” irony that Bill “turned his back on his family just as his eldest son began to amass the largest fortune in history.”

Plainly put, Rockefeller was not intimidated by crummy circumstances; he was inspired by them. Life was about opportunities, not disadvantages.

As the story goes on, plenty of Read the rest of this entry »

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