American Consequences - August 2017

This makes Microsoft and Google into what economists call an “oligopoly”... Meaning there are so few sellers of something that the few can control the price that the many (the buyers) pay. However, you can’t have too much control over the price of your product when you’ve got competitors, like Linux, who are giving the product away for free. Albeit, Linux is “free” in the sense that you’ve got to be living for free in your mother’s basement and have unlimited free time to install it because you’re unemployed. But, still... Twitter, for all the press it gets... (Mr. President, Twitter founders Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams send their warmest regards)... has a laughable 5.2% of the social-media market. Facebook does better with 39%. But to my teenage children, Facebook is about as interesting and hip as the school bulletin board. They have ways of electronically communicating with their peers that are so new, so devious, so incomprehensive to adults that, by comparison, the German WWII Enigma machine was a secret decoder ring in a breakfast cereal box. If Putin’s famed group of computer hackers attempted to intercept messages about which boys are cute sent from my daughter Muffin to her best friend Bitsy, the hackers would end up running screaming from the Kremlin begging for jobs installing cable.

Uber estimates it has 40 million American riders per month. Go ahead and honk your horn, Uber. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates 445.8 billion American car trips per year. Airbnb projects 100 million “booked nights” in 2017. U.S. hotels have around 5 million rooms and a 62% average occupancy rate. That’s 1.2 billion booked nights. With room service – so you can order a drink and calm down about Airbnb taking over the American hospitality industry. Only Google (79% of search-engine views) and its subsidiary YouTube (78% of video sharing) have real monopoly bragging rights. Getting a monopoly in video sharing is like getting a monopoly in stupid. I’ve known guys who tried. (“Hold my beer and watch this... ”) As for Google... Elsewhere in this issue of American Consequences I describe how awful it is as a search engine. But this doesn’t mean it won’t remain dominant in the business for a while. Maybe for a long while. Horses were dominant in the transportation business for thousands of years. Then one day it occurred to people that a horse is a thousand pounds of bad attitude that kicks and bites and stinks up the garage. And the horse went the way of the horse and buggy. There’s plenty to damn in the New Mutant Capitalism. But if you damn it for being monopolistic, you’re a horse’s...

American Consequences | 69

Made with FlippingBook Online document